2018-06-22 07:29


When Joe Braven, the head of a logger company, finds a bag of drugs in his remote forest cabin while visiting there with his young son and dementia-riddled father, he and his family soon find themselves going head to head with a group of drug runners who will stop at nothing to get their drugs back.


If there's one thing to be said in favour of Braven, it's that, though he doesn't quite have the charisma of John Cena, let alone Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Momoa once again proves himself to be a perfectly solid screen presence. Would that I could say that his character is even remotely interesting or that the film he's in is anything more than a boring rehash of thousands of other action movies with nothing whatsoever new to bring to the table but, alas, I can't.

Braven – stupid title aside – isn't so much utterly awful as it is so mind-numbingly boring in its mediocrity that I could only wish it was more actively terrible to at least give it some semblance of life.

Sure, it is almost impressively stupid in the way that none of its characters do anything even remotely logical – the whole plot of the film could have been avoided, in fact, had the baddies just waited for our hero and his father and son to leave the cottage where they left the drugs – but it's not even stupid in a way that's remotely fun. The afore mentioned Dwayne Johnson (and his British counterpart, Jason Statham, come to think of it) has made an art out of turning a film's stupidity into one of its most enduring qualities but the dumbness of Braven is just that: dumb.

It has dumb characters doing dumb things to other dumb characters in a dumb plot that just gets dumber as it goes on. That's a whole lot of dumbness but the film's resolute refusal to be anything other than head-bangingly idiotic is only the first of its many sins. Amazingly, it's not even its worst or greatest sin. Not by a long shot. Nor for that matter, is its worst failing that it plays out exactly as you would expect a mix of a generic home-invasion movie with First Blood (that's the first Rambo film for those of you too young to remember or too unbothered to work out how the bonkers titling of that particular series works) to play out or that it has nothing discernible to set it apart from any other straight-to-video, d-grade action movies of its ilk, except that those films at least had the decency not to stink up our cinemas.  

Nope, the reason why Braven isn't simply bad but is, quite simply, beneath contempt is that it's just so unbearably dull. Its action scenes aren't unimaginative but are still weirdly monotonous and uninvolving; its characters make no impact whatsoever, and its plot doesn't take a single twist or turn that can be described as unpredictable – all of which adds up to almost nothing at all.

It's a film whose whole is less than the sum of its parts where all of its parts are equal, almost exactly, to zero. That it is entirely without humour or a sense of style is almost a given at this point but that it can't even do anything memorable or eye-catching with its beautiful, snowy forest setting is almost impossible to believe. If everything about the film didn't smack so heavily of laziness, it would almost be impressive that stuntman-turned-director Lin Oeding managed to put together something this wholly unremarkable.  

The film has, it has to be said, gotten some perfectly decent reviews overseas so perhaps the fault lies with me. Perhaps I just sat through so many action thrillers in my teenage years that something this nuts-and-bolts just feels particularly uninspiring. Perhaps, even, unless its mixed with outside elements like comedy, scifi/fantasy or a keen sense of its own absurdity, I've just outgrown the action genre. Maybe I really do need more from my movies than endless action scenes and am looking for silly things like story, characterization and a sense of actual personality. 

But, come on, surely this sort of thing should be at least a little bit fun? In a week where we have the delightful quirkiness of Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs or the genuine fun frivolity of Ocean's 8 – though, yes, you have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy the unbearable British repression of On Chesil Beach – why on earth would you waste your time with something like this? Even if none of these appeal to you and you're looking for something more squarely in the action genre, there are countless films almost exactly like this that won't cost you the increasingly prohibitive price of a cinema ticket. Why, in short, does this film need to exist?

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