Lin Oeding's stripped down action thriller, Braven, is an efficiently made debut by the stunt director and provides a reasonably strong vehicle for Jason Momoa in between his current shifts with DC. This is a B-movie straight out of the 80s and 90s pitching a hardworking family man up against the elements and a gang of drug runners. As Joe Braven we meet Momoa working with his logging team by day before heading home to his wife and young daughter at night. His father, Linden (Stephen Lang), is slowly succumbing to dementia and Joe faces the tough choice of deciding whether or not to put him into a local care home.
Weston (Brendan Fletcher) is one of Joe's co-workers who boosts his income transporting heroin across the state and he comes unstuck when his truck runs off the road. Before the cops arrive he stashes the drugs in Joe's unused family cabin and makes arrangements to collect the dope the following morning, under the supervision of the gang's slightly deranged head honcho Kassen (Garret Dillahunt). Weston wasn't counting on Joe and his father unexpectedly heading up to the cabin for a father/son talk about the future, and it isn't long before there's a showdown at the isolated cabin with Kassen's men demanding their stash while Joe desperately tries to defend his family.
Oeding’s career so far has been heavily centred on stunt work, earning his kudos on blockbusters such as Spider-Man Homecoming, The Dark Knight Rises, and Inception. A few shorts and some TV credits later has seen him take the leap into cinema and his previous career serves him well on his first outing on the big screen. He’s working to a small budget but the action scenes are agile and brutally real at times, with the physical blows left undisguised in post production as they thud into the air. Once the action starts it doesn’t know where to take a breather and the characters are the ones who ultimately suffer. The emotional kick Oeding is hoping to deliver in the final act never really materialises despite laying the ground work in the first act.
Momoa obviously has the physical presence for these type of films and carries off the everyman role well enough. We know Joe loves his family, goofs around in the snow with his daughter, drinks liquor straight from the bottle and can throw a mean axe to the skull but there isn’t much else to the man beyond his beard and muscle. Momoa isn’t expected to do anything beyond getting bloody in the snow and given his shaky performance in Justice League that is probably no bad thing. Braven is aware of its limitations and while hardly a game-changer it's harmless enough fare to pass the time.