One can imagine those old pros Louis Mandylor (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) and Armand Assante (most recently in “The Deuce,” but he goes back to “The Lords of Flatbush” and “Private Benjamin”) sitting together in the makeup trailer for “The Brave.”
Maybe there was some chuckling, a few jokes about making a movie in “BFE, Bulgaria.”
Somebody might have turned philosophical. “We ALL end up making shoot-em-ups in BFE, Bulgaria!”
That’s what “The Brave” is, a cops-vs-drug-lord thriller with some heavy-duty shoot-outs, and WAY too much chatter between them. It’s set in Albania — with lovely second unit work “establishing” that locale. But it was actually filmed just across the Balkans, in Bulgaria, where all this mayhem is unleashed.
Mandylor plays Rei, the US-educated Albanian cop with a quick trigger and a quicker temper. Assante is “Franco,” the Italian-American mobster who runs this dirty drug empire on the muddy boot-bottom of Europe.
The police boss — played by Igor Jijikine (who’s played more Russians than #MoscowMitch) — lectures his troops on what they’re embarking on.
“We are takink bayek Albania! Trust een the LAW, een Justice, een your people!”
Jijikine has a lot of lines in this Marco Balsamo script (Balsamo is an actor, look for “Seba”), more than I can ever remember this Indiana Jones heavy having in a movie. That’s one of the problems, here. Everybody has too many lines.
Rei’s “team” includes the mysterious Elena (Ravshana Kurkova) and others.
Every time they think they’ve got the bad guys cornered, Franco outsmarts them. That big raid on the manikin factory? It’s empty, with Franco sitting in an office chair, waiting on them to show up.
“Listen,” he purrs, “Whatever blows your dress up!”
The conceit here is that everybody speaks English with some sort of vague Slavic accent. Mandylor’s comes and goes. Assante, being Italian-American, doesn’t have to work at it.
Lots of Eastern European actors overfill the supporting cast, and they have to speak English, too. With that accent. It just feels off.
What isn’t “off” is the action here. One character bellyaches how Albanians are always “criminals” in the movies (see “Taken,” et al). The world captured here has cops using a CHILD as an informant, wired as he goes into the mob night club, serving as a mob courier.
Director William Kaufman is no Walter Hill, but his shootouts — and there are many — are competent. It’s not a good script and it’s not a good thriller, so this isn’t much better than his earlier efforts (“The Hit List,” “The Prodigy”).
One overriding gripe, other than the endless talking scenes that don’t really illuminate the plot or advance the story, is the body count. Scores and scores are gunned down. Nobody makes a sound. Not one cry in agony, gurgling death rattle or death with any real meat or meaning to it.
Save for the end. But like everything else about “The Brave,” you already knew that.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violent as all get-out
Cast: Louis Mandylor, Ravshana Kurkova, Igor Jijikine, Besart Kallaku and Armand Assante.
Credits: Directed by William Kaufman, script Marco Balsamo. A Mercury/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:44