Kirk Caouette has a wealth of film industry experience in a multitude of roles, most notably as a stuntman and fight choreographer. With hitman drama American Badger, he writes, directs, and takes on the leading role, playing ruthless gun-for-hire Dean. When he is assigned the task of befriending call girl Velvet (Andrea Stefancikova) and then subsequently ordered to take her out, he is faced with a dilemma that challenges his immoral attitude.
In the opening scene, there’s an internal monologue that explains that it’s Dean’s nickname that gives the film its title…because he’s a vicious, nocturnal predator that prefers to work alone. This slick introduction shoots for the coolness of Liotta’s iconic ‘I’ve always wanted to be a gangster’ speech, but doesn’t have the bite to back up its bark. He has a dead wife and a dog, and every frame is coated in a cheap neon sheen, so the narrative gives off big John Wick vibes. The perilously violent combat sequences are very well executed and there are some blows dealt that’ll make your eyes water, but the film is let down by a formulaic story and primitive script.
Casting himself as the troubled protagonist, there’s a self-indulgence in Caouette’s work that feels unearned. He gets to beat up the bad guys and get the girl, but delivers lines like he’s reading the shipping forecast. The spark is non-existent between him and Stefancikova who portrays the poorly written prostitute Velvet, whose role is reduced to a victim that needs to be rescued. In one scene she asks, ‘don’t you feel bad about killing people?’. He quickly replies ‘No, I don’t’, which is a perfect example of the puddle-deep dialogue.
In seedy vanity project American Badger, jack of all trades Kirk Caouette does all his own stunts, but don’t try this at home.