The Movie Waffler Glasgow Film Festival 2021 Review - AMERICAN BADGER | The Movie Waffler

Glasgow Film Festival 2021 Review - AMERICAN BADGER

american badger review
A hitman falls for the cam girl he's ordered to kill.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Kirk Caouette

Starring: Kirk Caouette, Andrea Stefancikova, Michael Kopsa

american badger poster

I've always believed that when it comes to casting action movies, it's best to hire a performer who can pull off believable stunts and set-pieces but lacks acting chops over an actor who can command a monologue but looks like an arthritic pensioner when asked to perform a fight scene. Nobody would call Jackie Chan a good actor, but when he's willing and able to do incredible things with his body in the name of entertainment, who cares?

Watching American Badger, the third feature directed by stunt performer Kirk Caouette, I began to doubt my beliefs in this regard. Caouette casts himself in the lead role, and while he's clearly able to handle himself in the movie's moderately well choreographed beat 'em up and shoot 'em up sequences, he's also one of the most lifeless actors to ever grace the screen.

american badger review

If you've ever seen the movies of cult multi-hyphenate hack Neil Breen, you'll have an idea of what to expect from American Badger. As with Breen, Caouette seems oblivious to how lacking in not just charisma, but in any identifiably human traits, he is. Throughout his film, Caouette often appears as if he's awaiting directions from offscreen, as though he forgot that he's also the director. He has the blank stare of a terminator whose battery ran out, and he wears his leather jacket in a manner that evokes a Catholic kid making his first communion.

Caouette plays our anti-hero Dean, a hitman who likes to compare himself to a badger. Not the sociable European variety, but the North American badger, which retreats from company and prefers to stay hidden in the shadows. He also likes to conduct his killing in the most public manner, regularly shooting up nightclubs and restaurants, which seems to completely contradict this philosophy.

american badger review

Pulling from the most overused plotline in action cinema, Dean is tasked with killing a woman, and you'll never guess – he only goes and bloody falls for the dame! Slovakian cam girl Marcella (Andrea Stefancikova, who comes off like Meryl Streep next to Caouette), has some info about "the cartel" (Oh God!), and Dean has been hired to seduce her to plumb her for knowledge. Really? They expect this charisma vaccine to seduce someone? Unbelievably, Dean pulls Marcella, though his seduction technique is never made clear. He never seems to speak to Marcella, but they say women like a good listener, so maybe that's his secret.

As with Neil Breen, Caouette peppers his script with the most mundane cod-philosophical musings imaginable. The dialogue between Dean and Marcella contains such insightful nuggets as "Did you know there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on Earth?" and "I wonder if this is all a dream and when we die we wake up." Makes you think.

american badger review

What's so strange about American Badger is that for all its failings in terms of script and casting, on a technical level it's quite impressive for its budget. Caouette does a decent enough job of staging John Wick inspired action scenes, and the cinematography (by three listed DoPs; make of that what you will) gives the movie an attractive, colourful comic book aesthetic. Had Caouette hired a couple of humans to rewrite his script and play the lead role, this could have been a decent enough piece of straight to VOD action filmmaking.

But the action beats account for about 10% of the running time. For the rest we're left to endure an often unintentionally hilarious vanity project featuring a script and central performance that appear to be the product of an extra-terrestrial who has come to Earth to take over our planet by conquering the film industry. I salute our new alien overlord, Kirk Caouette.

American Badger
 plays online at the Glasgow Film Festival from March 6th to 9th.

2021 movie reviews