Braven

Jason Momoa stars in Braven, a film with a dumb name and a whole lot of heart. Braven feels like an anomaly – it’s the type of action movie that was more prevalent in the late ’80s and early ’90s; the type of action movie that used to star Jean-Claude Van Damme. They don’t really make ’em like Braven anymore, and that makes this a film that has to be seen to be believed.

The set-up of Braven is simple: Jason Momoa is Joe Braven (!), a very muscular, hard-working family man who lives somwhere in the gorgeous, snowy Canadian wilderness. Braven worries about his aging father, Linden Braven, played by Stephen Lang. Linden is suffering from dementia, and Joe has been told by doctors that he might need to put his dear old dad in a nursing home. Understandably, this news weighs heavily on our hero, so he suggests that his pop accompany him up to the family’s mountain cabin to close it down for the winter. There, he plans to have a discussion with his father about the old man’s failing mental state.

Before that frank conversation can begin, however, the Bravens make a shocking discovery: drug smugglers have stashed a ton of cocaine in the cabin. The Bravens would like nothing more than to get the hell out of there, but before they can, the drug smugglers come calling, with intentions of killing any witnesses. What’s Joe Braven to do but murder everyone?

Braven is not high-art, but gosh almighty is it highly entertaining, and surprisingly effective. I feel like this is the type of movie that might slip through the VOD-cracks, and that’s a shame. With that in mind, I’ve compiled for you 10 reasons to watch Braven, the ’90s action movie throwback you need right now.

joe braven

1. Joe Braven!

Did I mention Jason Momoa’s name in this movie is Joe Braven? When the Braven trailer arrived, I wondered just what the hell the title could be referring to. Now I know: Braven is the lead character’s name and that is amazing. It’s such a stupid name, and yet it works so well. Best of all, people keep referring to the character as Joe Braven. At one point, after engaging in a snowball fight with his wife, Mrs. Braven shouts, “Joe Braven, I’m gonna get you!” Every time someone says “Joe Braven” or “Braven” in this movie, please feel free to pump your fist in the air in triumph. It feels so good. 

Braven cinematography

2. It Looks Gorgeous

Braven was shot in Newfoundland, Canada, and it looks absolutely breathtaking at times. This is no cheap-looking direct-to-VOD shoot-em-up – Braven offers up some truly stunning visuals that show director Lin Oeding has a good eye. Cinematographer Brian Andrew Mendoza captures the snowy mountains and wintry landscapes the characters inhabit, and fight in, with true style, and it helps Braven stand out.

Braven flip phone

3. Garret Dillahunt Plays the Bad Guy, and He Has a Flip Phone

An action movie is only as good as its lead villain. Thankfully for Braven, it has Garret Dillahunt, a fantastic character actor who has appeared on Deadwood and in No Country For Old Men. Dillahunt plays the leader of the drug smugglers, and while I wouldn’t say the character is written particularly well, Dillahunt has played this game long enough to know how to make his villain memorable. From the pronounced, over-the-top way he smokes a cigarette to the bored indignation that creeps up on his face when Joe Braven starts screwing up all his big plans, Dillahunt’s baddie (who doesn’t even really have a name) is a hoot. As a bonus, the character carries around a flip phone for some reason. No newfangled smartphone for this guy!

pipe

4. One Henchman Smokes A Big Pipe

Most of the other bad guys in Braven are disposable nobodies: they’re there to stand around, shoot guns, and be violently dispatched by Joe Braven. But there’s one particular henchman who stands around smoking a huge Sherlock Holmes-style pipe. Why? Who knows! Braven! In truth, this is a bit a bait and switch: the minute you see the pipe guy, you just assume he’s going to be a huge, memorable character. Why else would he be smoking that pipe? But no, he’s just another easily-killed henchmen. Still: that pipe is cool.

Stephen Lang Braven

5. Stephen Lang

Stephen Lang is a professional movie badass. Anytime a filmmaker needs an older, grizzled tough guy, they call in Stephen Lang, and for good reason: he looks the part. Braven gives Lang plenty of opportunities to break out his elderly badass routine, but there is a frailty to his character. Lang’s Linden Braven is slowly succumbing to dementia – a fact he can’t accept. When Joe Braven attempts to talk to his old man about this, Linden snaps at him and changes the subject. There’s nothing worse than feeling useless, and helpless, and at the very least, Braven gives Lang’s character a chance to prove his worth: he may be losing his marbles, so to speak, but he can still pick off bad guys with a sniper rifle.

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista has contributed to /Film, CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net