Me and my buddy Huston love direct to video action films. For every great work of art film we love, there are at least 5 stupid DTV action films that we live just as much. The premises and action are just ridiculous and over-the-top, they’re trying to do so much with so little money, and they sometimes nab actors that are way more talented than the quality of the film would suggest. Last week I watched quite possibly the best DTV action film I’ll see this year, Braven.
Braven follows Joe Braven (Jason Momoa), a logger and family man who takes his father (Stephen Lang) up to their winter cabin to close it up only to find that a large shipment of drugs have been stashed their and now a gang of dealers is trying to kill them to keep their crimes from getting out.
Five minutes in they set the ridiculous bar fairly high, asking you to believe that Momoa and Stephen Lang are related as Lang plays Momoa’s dad. For one thing, Momoa is a good 3 feet taller than Lang, and another, they are clearly different races. As soon as they set the bar this high for the suspension of disbelief, I knew I was in for a great time.
I’ve been waiting a long time for Jason Momoa to have an action film like this. It’s never made since to me why he wasn’t an instant action hero. I mean, look at him. The dude is huge, muscular and charismatic – how has he not happened as an action hero?! I guess what makes this a legitimate Momoa action film is that it feels like it was actually written with him in mind. It really taps into his natural mountain man quality by taking place on a snowy mountain and pitting him against unfriendly natural elements of snow and ice. Jason Momoa is noted skilled axe thrower – google “Jason Momoa axe throwing” and have a good time – and there’s a fulfilling amount of axe violence in this film that plays to his strengths. There’s a part where he throws a flaming axe at a bad guy with a shotgun that lights him on fire. He brought a flaming axe to a shotgun fight and won.
Garret Dillahunt is one of my favorite actors that nobody knows about, and he’s an absolute delight as the villain here. In his first scene he slams a dude’s head repeatedly into a table at a diner so you know he’s unhinged. There’s a part of the film where Dillahunt yells “YOU’RE GONNA GET MY BAG FOR ME NOW???? THAT’S WHAT I WANTED IN THE FIRST PLACE YOU STUPID COUNTRY FUCK. BRING ME ANOTHER BAG OF TEDDY BEARS???? FUCK YOU!!!!” and he milks it for all it’s worth. It’s incredible. Zahn McClarnon is a supremely underrated actor, responsible for the best episode of Westworld and a big part of why season 2 of Fargo was one of the best seasons of television I’ve seen, and it’s just a lot of fun to watch him play an over the top shitbag.
Braven is just kind of everything I want out of a DTV action film. It’s dumb and fun, has a stacked cast of people I love, Momoa’s doing the stunts and fight choreography himself, got great payoffs, and it’s just a blast to watch. No hyperbole or irony, this film might end up on my 25 favorite films of the year list. It’s just that good of a DTV action film.