Hitman Dean aka Badger (Kirk Caouette) has been a recluse since the death of his wife, communicating only with his handler. His latest assignment is to befriend a call girl named Velvet (Andrea Stefancikova), who has information about the inner workings of an Albanian gang that she works for. Dean orchestrates a meeting with Velvet aka Marcella but as he continues with his mission, he starts to fall for her. As his mission and his feeling start to conflict, Dean’s eyes are opened up to the world that he thought he’d left behind.
‘American Badger’ is an ambitious feature from stuntman turned actor, writer and director Kirk Caouette. Clearly inspired by the likes of ‘John Wick’, the film presents itself as a straight action thriller with a foray into human drama. On some levels it does succeed. Despite clearly having a tight budget, the production values are strong. You can imagine this film going straight to VOD and finding an audience among those who like hitman/gang movies. There’s some good camera work and the stunts are impressive throughout too, which you’d expect given that Caouette has worked as a stuntman during his career.
When it comes to the story, and nearly everything else though, ‘American Badger’ doesn’t quite work. The main reason for this is that the film takes itself far too seriously. What could have been a fun, turn-your-brain off style action flick, is bogged down by a feeling that Caouette believed he was making a real classic. Dean is such a serious character that he never manages to break out of his monotone ways, and to be honest I’m not sure if that was a directorial choice, the way the character was written or Caouette decisions on how to play him.
The script is quite poor too at times providing unintentional humour as Dean spits out what he believes to be insightful lines. I think the problem stems from Caouette having too much control over the whole project. Having a co-writer would definitely have benefited him and it would have made sure that the film steered, at least a little bit, away from the usual clichés and stereotypes of the genre. The hitman falling for his target trope has been done to death and there’s nothing new to say about it here.
The cast isn’t too strong either. Caouette, credit to him, really commits to the material but he doesn’t have the range to really bring a character like this to life. Andrea Stefancikova fares slightly better as Marcella but it’s hard to tell if that’s because most of her scenes are opposite Caouette or that she is genuinely the better actor.
‘American Badger’ is too light on action and too heavy on exposition to really find its feet as a must-see action flick. I really, really wanted to like it and I was willing to overlook a lot but sadly the film just doesn’t land. At 82 minutes it feels too long and Caouette taking on three roles – actor, director and writer – gives the film too narrow a focus. There’s potential in the story but it’s not realised to its full potential here unfortunately.
Cast: Kirk Caouette, Andrea Stefancikova, Michael Kopsa Director: Kirk Caouette Writer: Kirk Caouette Certificate: 18 Duration: 82 mins Released by: Raven Banner