American Badger

A former soldier, a widower, a loner whose dog sits obediently by his side, Dean Joseph McBurney waits in his shabby room at the Hazelwood Hotel, smoking and taking his daily prescription of clonazepam to moderate his impulses, waiting for instruction; a hitman known as the Badger, comparing himself to the American badger, nocturnal, anti-social and vicious when provoked, he emerges only at the behest of others then retreats.

A professional killer who prides himself on the efficiency of his work, no prisoners taken and no traces left other than the obvious remains, undercover work is not in his remit but his anonymous handlers want him to make contact with a woman called Marcella Horvathova, known online to her webcam fans as “Velvet.”

A means to an end, the Badger’s target is her pimp Vasily, a gangster, drug dealer and people trafficker specialising in children; befriending Marcella he finds himself falling into a semblance of a relationship with her, two damaged people clinging to each other out of need rather than anything more substantial, a complication when the order comes through that she is to be terminated before the operation moves forward.

Written and directed by Kirk Caouette who also serves as stunt coordinator, American Badger is exactly what might be expected of a film conceived by a former stuntman where the hundred plus stunt performers outnumber the actual cast by ten to one, with only three characters receiving names and none with more depth than the pay-per-view persona Marcella presents to those whose credit card number checks out.

With Caouette, Andrea Stefancikova and Michael Kopsa as the Badger, Marcella and Vasily, the same trio who led Caouette’s 2019 feature Promiseland which has a suspiciously similar synopsis of prostitutes, vigilantes and violence, the stuntwork of American Badger is flawless, hand to hand combat, knife fights and gunplay in nightclubs, drug dens and DIY warehouses, much of it shot in single takes with no apparent mechanical assistance other than copious blood squibs, the Badger when roused to action moving instinctively without doubt or hesitation.

As a showcase for Caouette’s dynamic physical abilities and as a director of action scenes the work cannot be faulted, but as a dramatic actor and writer he has little to offer, the voiceover of the Badger’s inner thoughts as profound as a stale fortune cookie and delivered in a soporific monotone, the mass killings never seeming to prompt police investigation, and any supposed connection between the two leads less convincing than their interactions with the unnamed dog.

Vicious Fun is streaming as part of the FrightFest strand at Glasgow Film Festival at Home and will be available from Saturday 5th to Tuesday 9th March



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