By: Anthony Francis
Kirk Caouette has a solid reputation as a stuntman and stunt coordinator.
His work can be seen in films and television in projects as varied as “Stargate SG-1”, the Leslie Nielsen version of “Mr. Magoo”, the tv show “Dark Angel”, Brian De Palma’s “Mission to Mars”, and many more.
Highly respected amongst the Canadian stunt community, Caouette has been in the business for over 25 years and continuously works with up-and-coming actors on the skills and safety of stunt performing, receiving praise and awards for his contributions.
With the new film “American Badger”, Caouette writes, directs, stars, and tirelessly crafts all the creative fight sequences.
Caouette plays Dean, also known as “The Badger”, an assassin with an existential demeanor.
Dean is tasked to befriend an online sex worker named Velvet (Andrea Stefancikova). Whoever has hired him wants him to get close to her and “find out what she knows” about the cartel she is involved with.
And wouldn’t you know, an age-old cinematic trope begins to take shape, Dean and Velvet fall for one another and as soon as this happens, he is ordered to kill his target.
Velvet is a sad character who has lost herself and has settled for existing ad merely a sex worker who is “owned” by a psychotic criminal (Michael Kopsa).
Dean has been alone for twelve years and lives in a sparse room with his booze and strange thoughts. In his voiceover narration, he says that he works for just a few minutes and spends weeks between his killing jobs working out the wonders of the universe.
The philosophical slant to the character is rather silly, as is the half-baked “romance” that plays as less than convincing.
No one can accuse Caouette of being the next Marlon Brando and his acting is somewhat insufferable. I know he is trying to bring off the stoic antihero, but his performance seems so disconnected that, when he isn’t fighting, he almost fades into the wallpaper. He desperately wants this role to be his “John Wick”. It is not.
But great acting is not the filmmaker’s intention. Caouettewants to wow us with his fight skills, and he does just that.
The fight scenes in the film took almost four full months to put together while the film itself took Caouette three years to craft. You can see the months of precision in the fights, but I am not sure three years of movie making is present. The lighting is a bit off, and many scenes have a head-scratching framing.
The action moments are fun as far as balls-to-the-wall, gritty, exciting fist fights, Martial Arts moves, and creative ways to kill the bad guys.
Caouette knows his way around a fight scene. As a director, he knows how to keep the camera tight to where the audience is allowed to experience the action without it becoming a blurry collage of incomprehensible images. I’m talking to you modern Hollywood Action Films! Hold that camera steady enough to let us see the fights!
There is plenty of close quarters combat moments that are quite thrilling for the action aficionado. Fight scenes are always more impressive when the combatants are in a tight area and Caouette does a lot with this kind of moment.
Brutal point-blank headshots and viciously executed slicing and dicing of Dean’s targets (watch out for that buzz saw!) are hardcore and give the action sequences more than just bite, it makes them quite rousing and explosively entertaining.
Performances (or lack thereof) aside, Caoutte has made a pure action entertainment. While its low budget constraints hurt the film’s look and only true fans of the genre will be able to find this one due to a marginalized release, “American Badger” is a good time from an action standpoint.
Those moments are the reason we are there and Caouette’s fight skills do, indeed, dazzle.
About The Author Anthony Francis: A long-time film connoisseur and son to a father who ran a movie theater, Anthony Francis rightfully grew up to be a journalist, filmmaker, writer, and film reviewer. His latest reviews/interviews/articles can be found at screencomment.com