Eye For Film >> Movies >> American Badger (2021) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
There's an interesting idea at the core of American Badger. Its protagonist, hitman Dean (played by writer/director Kirk Caouette and known as the Badger because, well, Dean doesn't sound very inspiring) lost his wife a few years ago, and has barely spoken to anyone since. His only points of contact are his pet dog and a handler with whom he only communicates over the phone. He's settled into this way of living and doesn't seem to feel much need or desire for human company, so he's ill at ease when asked to befriend a young woman who is close to an Albanian mob boss, but he's a professional and so disinclined to refuse.
In the late stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, when vaccination means that people are starting to be able to get out and about against after some have been alone for months, there's a lot here for viewers to relate to. Caouette's portrayal of the shift between a man performing friendliness and a man beginning to form a real connection is well handled. Sadly that's about as far as the originality in this film goes, and the rest is painfully predictable. Having befriended Velvet (Andrea Stefancikova), who was kidnapped as a child and now works in the sex industry, the Badger is ordered to kill her. This prompts him to question that professional code and to rely, in his moment of crisis, on the only other thing her knows: extreme violence.
To her credit, Stefancikova does more with her character than is generally required. Her age is difficult to guess, her face hardened in a way that speaks to years of abuse. In a nice touch, she has a wardrobe full of identical dresses which speak to her presentation as a brand rather than a person in practically every aspect of her life. She's no happy hooker but a weary, wary woman whose primary concern is with working out which dangerous man offers her the best hope of survival. Caouette is alert to the fact that a conventional happy ending in which the two of them run off into the sunset together would not solve her problem, and has his lonely central character encourage her to make independent choices even as he comes to understand the cost of his own isolation.
Aside from this, the film delivers fairly well in terms of fights, the brutal realism of which will have strong appeal for some genre fans, but this being about small scale, bitter violence, there's less by way of spectacle for those for whom nifty moves and suffering are not enough. There's precious little else. The gangster stuff is grim but not particularly well developed because for the most part we only see events from the Badger's point of view. If you don't connect with him as a character, you'll be lost.
Though it functions as a good demonstration of directorial skill in some areas, American Badger is ultimately a film that we've seen many times before. It doesn't have enough of its own to say to make it particularly compelling.Reviewed on: 07 Mar 2021