Movie Review: ‘Braven’

Review by Jacquelin Hipes

It’s hardly surprising that Jason Momoa—perhaps most recognizable for his turn as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones—carved out a size-able niche for himself in the action genre after appearing on the HBO juggernaut. With an imposing physique, tattooed arms, and rumbling voice, it doesn’t require mental gymnastics to picture him as a film’s resident tough guy. His latest outing in director Lin Oeding’s Braven may not challenge Momoa or the audience to any great extent, but it capitalizes on his strengths to carry off a competent B-movie thriller.

Joe Braven (Jason Momoa) leads a generally happy life. Well-liked by his employees at the family timber mill and content at home with his wife Stephanie (Jill Wagner) and young daughter Charlotte (Sasha Rossof), only a couple of hiccups threaten to mar domestic bliss. After a helicopter crash the year before, his father (Stephen Lang) suffers from periods of confusion and memory lapses that cause problems with some of the other locals. An even more pressing concern, which Joe learns of too late, is one of his co-workers using a company logging truck to run drugs on the side.

When Joe invites his father up to their mountainside cabin with the intention of addressing his deteriorating mental state, he has no idea that an accident the night before forced Weston (Brendan Fletcher) to ditch his illicit cargo in Joe’s shed. With winter fast approaching, he thinks the property should be deserted, and leads his nameless boss (Garret Dillahunt) and assorted thugs to retrieve the stash just as Joe and his father arrive. Itchy trigger fingers quickly escalate the standoff, and before long the entire Braven clan is put at risk.

Once the standoff turns into a shootout, the action is entertaining enough. Not everything makes perfect sense, though. Dillahunt’s baddie swings from a strategy of discretion to slaughter so quickly it gives you whiplash. One may also wonder why two combatants continue throwing punches with their right hands when one or both of them are holding deadlier weapons in their left. And an action romp rarely requires half an hour’s set-up, especially one so straightforward as this.

Yet the dialogue never grates, nor are there any groan-inducing one-liner puns. Braven plays it straight all the way through, if a little over the top. Writers Michael Nilon and Thomas Pa’a Sibbett deserve kudos for giving the Braven women more to do than play damsels in distress. While this is clearly Momoa’s show, both Wagner and Rossof help save the day too.

The “B-movie” label gets thrown around somewhat derisively, but that isn’t the intention here. Braven takes a simple premise and carries it off capably. Sometimes all we need is to see the good guys win and the bad guys lose, with a bit of style thrown in for good measure. Momoa has the capacity for more, but he fulfills the basics just fine.

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