Braven, starring Jason Momoa, is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
When fans hear the name Jason Mamoa, they think of Game of Thrones or Aquaman. Some fans might even think all the way back to Stargate: Atlantis when Mamoa’s name is brought up. What most fans don’t think of when they think of the 43-year-old Hawaiian is the name Braven, but that’s about to change. Largely ignored in theaters, the 2018 action thriller Braven is—as reported by FlixPatrol—currently the #10 most streamed movie on Amazon Prime Video with nowhere to go but up.
Braven stars Jason Momoa as Joe Braven, a logger and family man forced to defend his wife and daughter from a band of evil drug runners. Joining Momoa is Garret Dillahunt of Deadwood fame as Kassen, leader of the bad guys and Momoa’s chief antagonist. Braven also stars Jill Wagner as Stephanie Braven, Joe’s wife, and Don’t Breathe‘s Stephen Lang as his father, Linden Braven.
Lin Oeding—largely a TV director—directed Braven off of a script penned by Thomas Pa’a Sibbet and Michael Nilon. Nilon is perhaps best known as the producer behind two of Nicholas Cage’s most recent—and weirdest—films, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Willy’s Wonderland.
Braven starts with Jason Momoa’s character Joe attempting to spend some quality time with his father at a secluded cabin. Unbeknownst to Joe, his daughter Charlotte tags along. Upon arriving at the cabin, Joe discovers a shedful of cocaine put there by drug kingpin Kassen.
Kassen and a posse of gun-toting goons show up at the cabin looking for their drugs. Jason Momoa hides his movie daughter before facing the crew of ne’er-do-wells. What follows is a Die Hard scenario where Joe—armed only with a bow and arrow—takes down Kassen’s gang of drug-running mercenaries one by one.
Principal photography began on Braven in December 2015. The film was shot on location in Newfoundland, Canada. The movie was a reunion of sorts for Jason Momoa and the actors who played his father and wife, respectively. Momoa had previously worked with Stephan Lang on 2011’s Conan the Barbarian and Jill Wagner on both Stargate: Atlantis as well as 2014’s Road to Paloma.
Despite the description sounding like the plot of a crappy made-for-streaming cookie-cutter action movie, Braven was released theatrically to generally positive reviews. Braven has a 77 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a slightly higher 80 percent audience score meaning essentially that most of the people who saw it enjoyed it. The problem is only a handful of people saw it.
Braven debuted in theaters to little fanfare on February 2, 2018. Jason Momoa’s own production company, Pride of Gypsies, spent an estimated $5 million on the film only to earn back less than a fifth of that sum at the box office. Braven ended its theatrical run with a disappointing worldwide gross of $854,319, not even cracking a single million.
Braven marked another unsuccessful attempt to turn Jason Momoa into the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or Dwayne “The Rock Johnson.” Given Momoa’s physical stature, action movies seem like the most obvious choice for him, and yet, outside of his DC work, the actor hasn’t had a lot of luck in the genre. Momoa’s Conan the Barbarian reboot failed to launch a franchise, and movies like Debug and The Last Manhunt seem to exist solely to pad his IMDb page.
The harsh truth about Jason Momoa is that, with the exception of Aquaman, he doesn’t really work as a leading man. Add him to an ensemble film like Dune or Fast X, and he does just fine, but give him an entire film to carry on his broad shoulders, and he flounders a bit. As for why Aquaman worked, that film made a bazillion dollars because of the IP and not off of Jason Momoa’s ability to draw a crowd. In the age of the superhero, the franchise is the star regardless of who they get to wear the tights.
And that’s what makes Braven such an interesting novelty. It’s the rare non-franchise movie starring Jason Momoa that works. Whether that’s due to the writing, the directing, or Momoa being born to play a logger is anyone’s guess, but for whatever reason, Braven is worth a watch.