Kirk Caouette has made a name for himself in the entertainment industry for his stunt work on superhero films such as X-Men and Fantastic Four and television shows including Superman & Lois. However, the man is multifaceted and can do more than action. In the film American Badger, he pulls triple duty serving as writer, director, and leading man.
The story follows a hitman named after the titular animal because of his ferocity on the job and his solitary behavior. On his next assignment, he is enlisted to make contact with a sex worker named Velvet (Andrea Stefancikova) and extract intel from her about the inner workings of an Albanian gang. The Badger gets too close to his target and begins to hesitate when his employers give the order to take down the criminal organization beginning with Velvet.
Caouette’s previous experience as a stuntman serves him well when filming the fighting sequences. The free hand camera allows the viewer to get right into the action and all the motion contributes to the kinetic energy of it all. There’s a good mix of melee and hand to hand combat along with gun play that makes for a thrilling and entertaining watch. Though violent, it never seems gratuitous and the more brutal moments are effectively used to emphasize how the main character received his nickname.
Visually, American Badger captures the gritty noir look of 1990s Hong Kong cinema. Caouette has cited director Wong Kar Wai as a huge influence when developing the movie and it shows. His style is very reminiscent of the genre with textured shots, use of shadows, and the lighting and color schemes. All of these combined create an aesthetically pleasing look; the director has a clear vision.
Where the feature stumbles is in the writing and script. Some of the plotlines are hard to follow and it’s unclear and unbelievable how the Badger makes his way into Velvet’s life. The lead is supposed to be antisocial, but that still doesn’t explain the awkward and banal dialog between the two leads. Caouette is trying to portray the main character as vulnerable and provide an existential look into his psyche, but the burn is too slow and drags. Unfortunately, the character exploration takes up the lion’s share of American Badger and it’s not nearly as exciting or engaging as the action.
Overall, the movie has some great things going for it including electric fight scenes and a clear vision but it is bogged down by a lackluster script with long bouts of boredom.
American Badger will be made available digitally and on VOD this June 15.