Jason Momoa Is Deadly in Action Thriller ‘Braven’

Images of the starkly beautiful mountains and beaches of Newfoundland in winter provide a stunning beginning to Jason Momoa‘s new action thriller “Braven.” Unfortunately that is where the feelings of awe end. “Braven” expresses no further ambition but to be a smartly paced, simple action film involving the imposing presence of Momoa whop portrays the logger Braven as he goes head to head against a half dozen violent drug runners.

The titular character Braven is a hard working family man with a wife and a young daughter. He runs a logging concern, employing a small but loyal group of workers. Little does he know that his trusted trucker charged with driving the freshly harvested load of timber to market is using the run to smuggle heroin. Hiding the stash in hollowed logs is a good idea until the semi blows a tire causing the truck to careen off the road where it catches on fire.

Needing a place to hide the drugs, he decides on the nearby cabin belonging to his boss. Generally unoccupied in winter, it seems a good choice. But it’s not. Braven’s father (Stephen Lang) has begun to lose it in his old age and Braven decides that cabin is qa perfect spot to break it to Dad that a rest home might be in Dad’s future. Which leads to a deadly confrontation between evil drug lord Kassen (Garret Dillahunt) with his small army of thugs and Braven and Dad and eventually young daughter (Sasha Rossof) and wife (Jill Wagner).

Braven has its simple story to tell and wastes little time on three dimensional characterization or backstory, going head-on from one inciting incident to another. Even the predictable revelation that Braven’s young daughter has come to the cabin without her parents’ consent feels rushed, even though it adds increased peril to an already threatening mix.

The film peppers random acts of extreme violence throughout in an effort to prove just how evil the drug lord really is. At the beginning he smashes the face of a repentant underling multiple times into a table at an all-night diner. This is followed by abrupt shootings and stabbings in an effort to remind us that when he proclaims he’s going to kill Braven and his family (which he does quite often), he means it.

Much of this movie feels underwritten. The dialogue suggests poignant revelations but never goes far enough to make those moments satisfying. When introduced to the conflict, neither the wife nor the daughter feel truly endangered.

There are reasons to watch Braven. It moves quickly and solidly and doesn’t expect much from the audience. The music is beautiful and adds to the mood. But the biggest reason is its star Jason Momoa. He is a force of nature. No one-sided Eastwood-style battles for Momoa. It’s a tribute to his physical performance that during the multiple fistfights, one can believe his opponents actually have a chance.

Momoa first sprung into view as Kahl Drogo in “Games of Thrones.” Before that, his explosive fire and energy were first put on display in the underrated adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Conan where he was far more successful in establishing the animal violence of Howard’s barbarian that the former governor of California. He most recently has made his mark as one of the best-reviewed elements in DC’s “Justice League.”

Braven” opens Feb. 2 in select theaters nationwide.