Movie Review: ‘Braven’ a No-Nonsense Lumberjack Thriller
Call it ‘Die Hard in Canada’: Jason Momoa stars as a lumberjack who goes to extreme lengths to protect his family in the new thriller Braven, which is almost an entirely solid little B-movie before taking a swan dive into the cheese during its final scenes.
Momoa is Joe Braven (who else?), a logging company owner who has been brooding over what to do with his father (Stephen Lang), who has been suffering from dementia and getting into awkward fights at the local bar.
In order to come to grips with everything, Joe decides to take pop out to the family’s isolated cabin in the middle of the snow-covered Newfoundland wilderness, a location that has no cell reception and an iffy HAM radio but plenty of rifles, bows, arrows, axes, and bear traps.
Here’s the catch: Joe’s employee Weston (Brendan Fletcher) and his drug running pal (Zahn McClarnon) have stashed millions of dollars worth of cocaine at the presumably-deserted cabin, and now the whole crew - including ruthless mob boss Kassen (Garret Dillahunt) - are coming out to retrieve it.
Predictably, Joe’s daughter has snuck out to the cabin to be with them, with his wife (Jill Wagner) close behind.
You know exactly where Braven is going, and go there it does. But after the convoluted setup, I really got into the film's Rio Bravo second act, which features snipers pinning down Joe and family inside the cabin and Dillahunt’s baddie trying to get at his dope.
Kudos to director Lin Oeding, a stunt performer and coordinator whose recent credits include Logan, The Fate of the Furious, and Spider-Man: Homecoming: there’s genuine tension and exciting action sequences during the midsection of Braven, which threatens to be a legitimately good little B-movie for most of its running time.
But it’s grasp is tenuous: the movie throws logic out of the window during its final scenes, in which both hero and villain seem to be driven by primal urge rather than sense, and a final showdown is simply too silly to take seriously, even in something like this.
Momoa, who made a big splash in Game of Thrones and also stars as Aquaman in Justice League and future DC films, has yet to establish himself as an action hero despite starring as Conan the Barbarian a half-decade back. He’s a solid central presence in Braven, but his somber demeanor suggests more going on with the character than the usual beefcake.
Braven also features one of the most egregious applications a trope I’ve come to call ‘the convenient death.’ Most common in films that feature plot devices like a love triangle, a benevolent character will perish at the hands of the villain(s) in order to neatly tie up loose story ends and spare the protagonists from making a difficult decision. Here, it's an especially unpleasant moment.