Directed by: Lin Oeding, Starring: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Garret Dillahunt, Jill Wagner. Action, Canada 2017, 94mins, Cert 15.
Released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 30th April 2018 in the UK by 101 Films.
Straw Logs - If you fancy having your photo taken with bearded beefcake Jason (‘Aquaman’) Momoa and his autograph on an 8x10 at London Film and Comic Con in July it’ll set you back £150. In the meantime, if you’re a fan, you could do worse than pick up a copy of this modest yet competent DTV revenge actioner for a fraction of the price.
Joe Braven is a hard-working rugged Newfoundland logging family man. When he’s not supervising his tree-felling business, he’s at home playing snowballs with his beautiful wife Stephanie (Jill Wagner), falling asleep whilst reading bedtime stories to his sweet young daughter Charlotte, and getting increasingly concerned about his ‘pops’ Linden (Stephen Lang). Unfortunately pops is displaying increasingly Alzheimer-like symptoms which come to a head (and result in stitches to his) when they cause him to get duffed up in a bar after mistaking a random female patron for his deceased wife. Having extrapolated pops from aforementioned brawl by displaying some impressive muscle flexing, Joe decides it’s time to take pops up to his hunting cabin in the woods for some father-son bonding and to raise the thorny issue of supervised care for pops. Unfortunately a gang of drug traffickers have stashed a sack load of heroin in the cabin, and they’re rather anxious to retrieve it: at all costs.
The criminals are led by Garret Dillahunt’s ‘Kassen’, a man so ruthless he ignores a waitresses’ reproach for smoking in a diner, and rather more ominously thinks nothing of repeatedly slamming an incompetent accomplice’s face down into the table in full view of the diner’s clientele!
So, after 45 minutes of patient set-up, Joe Braven eventually gets to be brave as a stakeout siege unfolds around the snowbound cabin. The stakes are raised higher still when Joe realises his daughter has snuck along for the ride – and wife Stephanie isn’t far behind either. Time then for Joe to get busy improvising with bow and arrow, axe, and in one audaciously daft sequence, a bear-trap, as he and sharp-shooting sniper/hunter pops defend the cabin
The stunning snowbound Newfoundland locations provide a visually arresting backdrop against which Jason Momoa and a well-drilled troop of stuntmen stage some reasonably decent action sequences. Momoa acquits himself convincingly enough in both the family man scenes and when going mano a mano against the one dimensional baddies. Thundering through the woods like a man mountain and hurling flaming pick axes with aplomb, I couldn’t help think Momoa would make a formidable Jason Voorhees if Paramount ever gets their act together and commission another instalment. Mind you, would Momoa agree to hiding his chiselled jawbone by donning a hockey mask and keeping his sculptured musculature under wraps whilst chopping up camp counsellors?
Stephen Lang reliably adds value as Momoa’s vulnerable dad, managing to wring some genuine pathos out of a largely by-the-numbers script before his future care dilemma is unceremoniously solved. Jill Wagner chips in with a feisty and welcome late-turn in the archery department too.
One aspect of the production that niggled me was the actual hunting cabin which gave the appearance it was newly built rather than the ye oldie hunting lodge where father and son supposedly bonded for years. (Watching the extras my suspicions were confirmed, it was indeed custom-constructed for the film). Given the implausible mayhem occurring on screen, this might sound like pedantic nitpicking, but it took me out of the narrative at times when it really need not have. But freshly built IKEA cabin aside, overall it’s a solid undemanding piece of ‘15’ rated violent(ish) entertainment.
Could it launch a franchise ala Liam Neeson’s TAKEN? Who knows? But if DC’s upcoming AQUAMAN proves to be a washout, Momoa can always keep his head and rippling shoulders above water with stuff like BRAVEN - or appearances at comic cons.
Extras: Making of featurette (6mins) and cast and crew interviews (6mins).
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