Braven Blu-ray Review
On Deadly Ground
Jason Momoa delivers a surprisingly effective little action thriller in Braven, the taut and efficient directorial debut of Lin Oeding.Thirty years ago and making action movies like this was a relatively easy affair, with the likes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger the heavyweight champions, whilst Snipes, Seagal and Van Damme offered successful support. After Die Hard, making a film about an everyday joe with special skills caught in a tough situation facing numerous armed adversaries became just a matter of changing the setting rather than changing the formula. These days, it's a much stricter affair, with a few films - now following the Taken formula - providing solid, straightforward thrills, but the majority forced to either raise their game, or find themselves dumped into the straight-to-DVD bins even before they've had a chance to prove themselves. Braven raises its game considerably, setting a mood, tone and backdrop which, at least initially, has much more in common with the excellent Wind River (and not just in terms of snowy, unforgiving conditions) than with action thrillers of days past, and even affording star Jason Momoa more than just action to chew on.It quickly establishes Momoa's titular character as a hard-working logger whose wife is the cop, and whose dad - the superb Stephen Lang - is suffering from dementia, with a trip to their cabin in the woods, to persuade the dad it's time to take his illness seriously, going pear-shaped when Garret Dillahunt's drug dealer turns up with a team of heavily armed cohorts to retrieve goods they happened to leave in that same cabin. Momoa is good value for money, far more reliable in smaller fare (not Justice League), with Braven playing to his strengths as he broods and busts heads to protect his family from themselves when his dad goes off the rails in a bar, only going full tilt when faced with automatic weapons in the woods. He throws himself into the action with aplomb and, despite the visibly limited budget, Oeding makes the most of his solid cast, atypical father/son/dementia angle, and spectacular snowy setting, delivering a well-engineered piece that bodes well for his future in the industry.
Picture QualityBraven comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of 101 Films, who deliver it up with a strong enough 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation which is at its best showcasing the (likely second unit photography) broader shots of the snowy vistas and woodland setting, finding a distinctive style more elusive as it initially goes for gritty handheld shots that highlight the tragedy of one of the character's debilitating dementia, but loses the same gritty edge somewhat once we take to delivering the action goods.
A strong enough video presentation.
Smaller scale one-on-one combat is well defined and comes with some decent framing, and the film clearly does the best it can within the confines of the budget, but it's not always that good at avoiding lapsing into fairly bland visuals, at once blessed by but also limited by its memorable setting, and not exactly helped by the distinctive (and not in a good way) digital photography which could do with some more processing and some healthy texture to strip away from a sometimes all too real look. It's a serviceable video presentation, limited by the material, and hardly demo territory, but doing a solid enough job nonetheless.
Sound QualityThe track makes the most of a surprisingly effective score.
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track makes the most of a surprisingly effective score that plays melancholy over the more dramatically-orientated, sombre first act before upping the ante for a more action-driven and thus thematic accompaniment to the latter acts in the movie, providing the backbone to the increasingly eventful feature. Dialogue remains well-prioritised, given clear dissemination across the frontal channels but certainly taking a back seat to the effects and aforementioned score once the film goes all Hard Target in the woods, and those same effects manage to deliver strong enough gunshots echoing across the snowy landscape, revving engines, smashing glass and painful body blows with verve. It's a very good aural accompaniment, made all the more impressive by that score.
ExtrasA couple of short Featurettes comprise the only extras.
Blu-ray VerdictA pretty solid directorial debut.
Braven is hardly groundbreaking, but it's a pretty solid directorial debut and it certainly deserves points for its determination to distinguish itself from other similarly-conceived action features, affording the characters a little more development and making the most of the setting and some imaginative improvised action sequences that belie the limited budget. The UK Blu-ray release delivers decent enough video and engaging audio, with a smattering of extra features to round out the package; it's also pretty affordably priced and well worth investigating if you like the sound of it.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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