⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

With strong, likeable performances, a smart script, and taut direction, this could have been a good movie. But since it has none of those things, Braven is not a good movie. It isn’t exciting, it isn’t immersive, it isn’t thought provoking and it certainly isn’t funny, which is perhaps the most egregious error this foul film (or “foulm”) commits seeing as it’s presented as a comedy.

Jason Ammo is Lenny Dort, a twenty-two year old cobbler known for his uncanny bargain hunting and trading skills in and around the small town of Braven where he also serves as CPA, a court-ordered job he does not get paid to do. Due to his arrest for drunken fishing where he was taken into custody inside a midtown Baldorf’s ladiesroom sitting fully pantsed on a bidet and casting bait over the surrounding stalls, he must also refrain from riding a tricycle until the year 2030. The cordwainer is a wizard with a sleeking bone and a devout worshipper of St. Crispin, with all his books on tape and motivational posters. Local children love to watch Dort crimp and skive in his top hat and tails as he is also known for his fashion sense.

And then there’s Jonk, played by newcomer Jill Agnew, the town magistrate. She and Lenny are spying on each other, both incorrectly assuming the other is to blame for their recent sanitation woes. Both like to dance to industrial noise loops but he does it in his basement wearing nothing but a ski mask while she does it on the roof before breakfast in full pilgrim attire, even donning oatbran hoopskirts and wooden bonnets. Suspicion invades their lives and informs their choices but it’s both misplaced and misguided. Just because someone is carrying a garbage pail filled with excrement doesn’t mean they’re the one who clogged your toilets.

Ammo (A Face In The Crowd) does fairly well in an empty role. He plays Lenny like the creepy guy at the mall who’s always buying knives; creepy to women because he’s always buying knives and creepy to men because they know their wives and girlfriends also think he’s hot. Ammo certainly has the physical presence to be in front of the camera and while he may not be Laurence Olivier this ain’t Shakespeare. Despite her age Agnew plays Jonk like some sort of lovestruck spinster, and while the actress is a joy to watch, her performance just doesn’t mesh with the rest of the cast, leaving her starkly misused.

Unfortunately for the film, director Shank Williams (Something Wild) has no command of his actors or the material, so Ammo and Agnew et al are left to their own devices. The results are at best marginally watchable but not for a feature length eighty-nine minutes. There’s a cloying aimlessness, an unamusing sense of bumbling in every scene. Even the soundtrack seems unsure if the film is supposed to be a subtle psychological drama or a preposterous comedy. The audio miscues alone made me laugh more than any of the jumbled, flat dialog or its uninspired delivery.

As for the humor, the best one can say is at least they didn’t pile on the poo jokes, leaving the plumbing accidents blissfully unseen, but the stench is everywhere. Lifeless writing and worse direction make lousy bedfellows and even lousier films, but somewhere in this mess there might be an interesting story; an alternate cut could perhaps make this a bizarre character study, but it would also leave the film about fifteen minutes long. Or maybe if it were given totally rewritten subtitles for foreign audiences it could be marketed as an abstract thriller. Anything but the loaf of pinch it presently is.