A fresh jab at Hollywood character types can be heard amidst the exchanges at the outset of William Kaufman’s new crime thriller, The Brave. For what it’s worth, the banter lends a palpable sampling of just what viewers are in for, amplified by strong performances, compelling interwoven drama, and action that thrills and excites from start to finish.
You have to give credence to the possible notion that The Brave is certainly more than a genric cop movie, taking to heart its location, and its history with respect to the concurrent story. An Eastern European nation still recovering from tragedy and civil war after more than two decades, Kaufman’s movie also coheses with a narrative also inspired by a real-life drug raid in the village of Lazarat in 2014.
Following a dodgy undercover operation, a team of cops form a special unit led by Rei Cana (Louis Mandylor), and commanded Captain Agim (Igor Jijikine). Tasked with taking down elusive international crime boss Frank Pedulla (Armand Assante), the team’s efforts to get closer are continually shrouded in suspicion over a potential leak in the department, and a few of its members, beleagured by past grievances.
The investigation reaches a violent boiling point as Pedulla remains several steps ahead, ensuing a bodycount that soon finds our team bringing the fight to Pedulla in a remote, idyllic village fotress. The showdown is an explosive and gargantuan battle with Cana, team members Elena (Ravshana Kurkova) and Enci (Ivan Makarevich), and the elite forces of RENAR all armed and ready to end Pedulla’s criminal reign once and for all.
Directing from a script by Marco Balsamo, Kaufman’s The Brave never lets up on intensity and excitement throughout. Our characters are all driven by something important to them, and the script and performance throughout are able to exude this without feeling cheap or forced between scenes of character development and plot building.
Characters Rei and Elena both bare layers of their own, and a discrete closeness in their camraderie that invokes the kind of requisite empathy that keeps the viewer caring. The same could be said for the equally complex dichotomy between Agim and Pedulla, the latter played by the always remarkable Armand Assante, and it’s that complexity that The Brave consistently feeds on from our troubled characters – even the smaller ones – assuring a refreshing element of mystery and unease to the millieu.
Not to be outdone by the fantastic drama, the action is lean, meaty and pulls no punches, with Mandylor, Kurkova and several key cast getting in some groundwork of their own. Rejoining crew members who share credits on Kaufman’s Sinners & Saints, Daylight’s End and Jarhead 3, the action is excellently coordinated, shot and balanced through every scene, which is important to remember about Kaufman whose feature debut, The Prodigy – a CQC action horror about a cop on the hunt for a serial killer – is a delightful example of this.
Kaufman has been filming action movies for more than fifteen years, and has been paying his dues ever since. For this, it’s worth keeping him in mind when pining for the next ballistic serving of enthralling action on film, especially as Kaufman remains steadfast on a potential reteaming with Jarhead 3 star Scott Adkins on the stagnant development of a Sinners And Saints reboot.
For now, it’s films like The Brave that are the best course to take. Culminating with stoicism, enthralling intrigue and resolve, The Brave takes a ripped-from-the-headlines approach to its story, backs it with sheer talent, gravitas and certitude, and delivers perhaps one of the best, and deservedly noteworthy action movies worth looking back on ten years from now when reflecting on the 2020s.