Movie Review: 'Braven' (2018)

What makes a good action drama great is when it emphasizes its dramatic side, and that is something that “Braven” marvelously excels at. Joe Braven (Jason Momoa) is a hard-working guy with a loving family. The owner of a logging company, he has to spend a lot of time away from his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, his father is dealing with the onsets of dementia, the result of a head injury from a bad fall he took during his own logging work.

In a rather short period of time, the movie is able to subtly communicate a lot about Joe Braven’s life and his loved ones’. The adults in the Braven household know they are facing rough seas ahead, but nothing could have prepared them for what is about to come their way.

One of Joe’s workers has a side “job” trafficking drugs for a merciless employer (Garret Dillahunt). When their latest shipment goes awry, they end up setting a chain of events in motion that has them barreling towards a faceoff with Joe and his family.

“Braven” does an excellent job setting up the human side of the drama, packing in character development that is rarely seen in the genre. The interplay between the characters is what charges so much of the movie because by the time stuff starts happening, you are totally invested in seeing the good guys prevail. The opening half is intriguing as it builds the tension towards this most assuredly deadly confrontation with the baddies.

The thing holding “Braven” back from being a total knockout is that Jason Momoa’s Joe is not allowed to fully showcase his strength as a protagonist. Like many heroes populating the action genre these days, Joe suffers brutal physical punishments against adversaries; he should easily do away with. There is no sequence that is not hard fought or fraught.

Instead of him his fighting acumen, Joe ends up using MacGyver-esque techniques to out-maneuver assailants, when his brunt force should be all the task requires. Joe is an opponent only a fool would want to tangle with and yet fool after fool lines up to do so. And sadly their self-delusion is rewarded.

“Braven” does provide "Game of Thrones" grad Jason Momoa with a sound action outlet and he rises to the occasion, doing terrific work with the tightly choreographed fight sequences. So it is exciting to think of what he could have done with more opportunities in that vein. Momoa also shows off his acting prowess with a nuanced and sincere turn.

Strong performances from the supporting cast similarly buoy the spirits of those hoping for more regarding the action. Stephen Lang, Garret Dillahunt, and Jill Wagner all deliver dynamic characterizations in their respective roles.

Lang is especially heartbreaking as Joe’s father, while Dillahunt gives the movie a worthy villain devoid of camp. And as Joe’s wife Stephanie, Wagner continues to prove what a wonderful actress she is by providing added depth to her crucial role.

There is a lot that “Braven” gets right, and despite how the second half of the film plays out, it remains thoroughly entertaining throughout. How the characters are fleshed out is what makes this film so effective. It also leaves you organically desiring something unusual – a sequel. These characters are worth revisiting, so why not?

Rating: 7/10

[Featured Image by Saban Films]

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