No matter how bizarre and cerebral actions films in general become, there will always be a loyal audience for visceral, freakish, and realistic action dramas, wanting to spend their money on relatable characters than a grand experience. Veteran stunt coordinator and first-time filmmaker Lin Oeding (‘Chicago P.D.’) courts that particular demographic of moviegoers with ‘Braven’, a film that is not only alert of its limitations but also utilizes them in its way to become a package of entertainment. Jason Momoa plays Joe Braven, a family man who must address his extraordinary circumstances head-on to protect everything close to him. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Braven Plot Synopsis
Set somewhere on the Canadian border, ‘Braven’ portrays Joe as a loving son to his father Linden (Stephen Lang), a caring husband to his wife Stephanie (Jill Wagner), and a doting father to his daughter Charlotte (Sasha Rossof). The tight-knit family has been compelled to face Linden’s deteriorating memory since he suffered a major head injury. After yet another barfight, which starts after Linden mistakes a woman for his dead wife, Joe and Stephanie have no choice but to accept that they need to find other ways than just keeping him at home. As his wife advices, Joe takes Linden to the family’s cabin in the woods to have a candid discussion with him about his condition.
When they are completely unaware, one of Joe’s employees and truckers, Weston (Brendan Fletcher), starts trafficking cocaine while transporting logs for the company. During one such run, he and his contact Hallett (Zahn McClarnon) have an accident and have to hide the drugs at Joe’s cabin. When Hallett’s boss Kassen (Garret Dillahunt) finds out about the incident, he himself comes with several of his men to get the drugs. But by then, Joe and Linden have already reached there and found that Charlotte hid in the backseat of their car so she could join them.
When Joe and Linden find the drugs, they correctly guessed that they will be immediately killed if they return them. With no way to connect to the outside world from their remote location in the snowy wilderness, the father-and-son duo must work together so they and Charlotte can end this terrible ordeal alive.
Charlotte gets to the top of the mountain without fail and contacts her mother, who, in turn, calls the police. Ridley, one of Kassen’s henchmen, meets the young girl, but Stephanie arrives right then and shoots him with an arrow. She diverts his attention long enough for Charlotte to make her flee.
The town’s Sheriff (Steve O’Connell) and his Deputy (Tye Alexander) later pick her. With Linden seriously wounded and incapacitated, Joe has no option but to continue fighting on his own. He uses the cabin as a huge trap to allure them and dispatch the rest of Kassen’s henchmen quickly. But Kassen draws him back outside after he hostages Linden. The day evidently hasn’t turned out the way Kassen wanted. What he thought would be a small and clean operation has become a bonafide disaster. He has lost almost all his men and still hasn’t retrieved all of the drugs yet.
His consecutive actions are influenced by that hate and frustration. The film states quite early that this is a very dangerous man, who will pull all stops to achieve his goals. But he always handles it with a characteristic coldness. That mask cracks when he faces Joe, who will not budge an inch without a fight. So, when he gets a hold of Linden, and Joe requests him to just let his father go, he revels in that momentary victory before stabbing him.
Is Linden Dead?
As Joe says in the initial part of the film, his father has been the strongest man he has ever known. But the brain trauma that has resulted from the head injury makes him often lose memory of things about himself. After the brawl at the bar, he quite forgets who Charlotte is. His father’s condition terrifies Joe, who doesn’t really know how to face it. He has no wish to send Linden to an old-age home but knows that what they have been presently doing isn’t working either. For Joe, the primary plan was to go to the cabin with his father and have an honest conversation with him. But then Kassen and his men show up, and joe has to put all of it aside and focus on the current danger.
The stab wound that Kassen gave to Linden proves to be deadly. Linden dies in his son’s arms. And Joe doesn’t have enough time to grieve for his father as Ridley arrives there. With Stephanie’s support, Joe kills him, before going after Kassen, who has regained the rest of the drugs and shot the Sheriff in the neck before making his escape.
The Showdown on the Snowy Cliff
Joe’s family has been residing in the town for a long time. He has likely spent a significant part of his childhood and adult life in and around the cabin, hunting with his father. In comparison, Kassen is a self-proclaimed city boy. While searching for him, Joe easily finds him and gets ahead of him to set up a giant trap. He takes the bag full of cocaine from the other man and manipulates him to a cliff, where he has just set up a bear trap and covered it with snow.
In the ensuing fight, Kassen wins over Joe, and when he finds the trap, he feels both frustration and amusement, thinking that it was for catching his feet. What he is unaware of is Joe intended to trap his own foot in it while pushing him over the cliff. As Kassen falls to his death, the line holding the trap secured to a tree stump saves Joe. He instantly climbs back up and reunites with his wife and daughter.
The most appreciable thing about ‘Braven’ is how normal and vulnerable its main character is, despite someone like Momoa depicting him. Joe Braven is not that typical protagonist of an action film. Every time he diverts attention of one of Kassen’s lackeys, there is a legitimate sense of danger. Kassen even easily beats him. It is only because of his acute alertness of the surroundings and his ardent need to protect the remaining members of his family that Joe is ultimately able to surprise and kill Kassen.