Braven is simple: Some bad guys have underestimated the good guy when he wanders unwittingly into their path. Screenwriter Thomas Pa'a Sibbett certainly commits to this simplicity and follows it through in other places, as well. The hero, fittingly named Joe Braven, is a hulking guy with one of those faces that naturally conveys menace and a powerful, muscular frame. That is because he is played by Jason Momoa, whose skill in the physicality arena has meant that the actor has, on the big and small screens in the past, taken on roles both heroic and villainous. As Joe, Momoa is a rock-solid presence, recalling those of the action heroes of yesteryear.
Joe's life is complicated in quite an uncomplicated way. The simple points of sympathy are here, though: He is regularly away from his family due to his work at a lumberyard. His wife Stephanie (Jill Wagner) coordinates her music practice so that their daughter Charlotte (Sasha Rossof) isn't without some parental supervision. His father Linden (Stephen Lang) is losing his memory as he ages. Confused visits to the nearest bar, where he tries to extract a woman he thinks is his late wife, are a regular occurrence, and after a fight leaves him needing a respectable number of stitches, the doctor recommends some sort of supervised arrangement.
Keeping time with these developments is the primary thread of the plot: Joe's work buddy Weston (Brendan Fletcher) has been roped into a dope-running scheme as the driver, and he and his associate Hallett (Zahn McClarnon), who have hidden the drugs in a hollowed-out log, run off the icy roads in the Canadian mountains of the setting. This forces them to hide the drugs in the Braven family cabin and alert Hallett's boss Kassen (Garret Dillahunt) to the hiccup in their plans. At the same time, hoping for a heart-to-heart with dad, Joe takes Linden to the cabin, barely beating Kassen and his men.
The inevitable ensues. Kassen and his lackeys create a perimeter around his house, offering no ransom but determined to take back the drugs, willing to kill the two men for their troubles. Stephanie and Charlotte just as inevitably show up here, though it is a bit refreshing that neither is reintroduced to be turned into fodder for a hostage situation (beyond a minor foot chase that ends pretty quickly). Joe's assortment of tools in and around the cabin turns the film into a grown-up Home Alone riff with more than a sprinkle of Die Hard.
The result is fitfully engaging, particularly in the performances from Momoa, who thankfully plays more than a single heroic note, and Dillahunt, whose expression shifts subtly from bemused to annoyed to irritated but rarely goes beyond that (the implication being, well, he's done all this before). The barebones nature of the character development and forward motion of the plot, though, means that Sibbett and director Lin Oeding have provided the skeleton and some of the connective tissue. The meat is missing, meaning that, while Braven is indeed simple, that simplicity gets the better of it.
Jason Momoa (Joe), Stephen Lang (Linden), Jill Wagner (Stephanie), Garret Dillahunt (Kassen), Sasha Rossof (Charlotte), Zahn McClarnon (Hallett), Brendan Fletcher (Weston).
Directed by Lin Oeding and written by Thomas Pa'a Sibbett.
Rated R (violence, language throughout including sexual references).
Released in select cities on February 2, 2018.