Blu-ray Review: Braven (2018)

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Produced by and starring the charismatic Jason Momoa in a tailor made role that plays directly to his strengths, this solid, above average direct-to-disc and digital B-movie variation of Cliffhanger marks the feature filmmaking debut of veteran stuntman and coordinator turned TV helmer, Lin Oeding.

Opening with some stunning wintry shots of the pacific northwest care of cinematographer and co-producer Brian Andrew Mendoza, it isn't too long before Braven's color palette changes from snow white to blood red when the family cabin of Momoa's titular logger Joe Braven is descended upon by heroin smugglers, led by the loose cannon Kassen (well played by Justified and Raising Hope actor Garret Dillahunt).

Making the most of what he has with which to work, Oeding and his stunt coordinator Robert Alonzo execute some truly inventive and – in at least one instance involving a bear trap – entertainingly convoluted fight sequences as Joe and his mentally declining yet still badass father, Linden (Don't Breathe's Stephen Lang) try to outwit and out man Dillahunt's band of hired guns.

Straining incredulity at times – albeit right in line with the genre – one way that Braven sets itself apart is by giving us an under-utilized yet nonetheless refreshing female heroine in the form of Stephanie (Teen Wolf star Jill Wagner), Joe’s bow-and-arrow wielding wife who is so tough that although she initially heads up to the cabin to retrieve her young daughter and backup Joe, by the time the police reach the shootout, they actually follow her lead through the snowy woods.

Okay, okay, so while the rational side of me gets that it was a tiny logistical error to place the armed authorities behind a woman and child, it’s still a fun little girl power flavored gaffe all the same.

A predictable yet impressively well made actioner ideally suited for a Saturday evening double feature, Braven gets around the shortcomings of its familiar storyline thanks to a talented cast and exceptional crew, led by Momoa and Oeding.

Bolstered by its demo reel worthy professional polish and creative action choreography, although Braven doesn't break the mold of similar late ‘80s/early ‘90s fare, for its roughly ninety minute running time\ it holds our interest with the same ease that Momoa holds an axe.

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