Kirk Caouette not only stars as the main character, a complicated hitman, in ‘American Badger’, he also wrote and directed the film. Caouette started his Hollywood career as a stunt and fight choreographer, working with numerous stars including Eddie Murphy, Kate Beckinsale, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry.
‘American Badger’ is Caouette’s second successful auteur feature film as writer/director/actor/producer, and he also did much of the editing on the film, learning enough about VFX to be a post-production VFX supervisor to the production partners in Mumbai. He said: “Over the past 10 years my goal has always been to have the absolute deepest understanding of the entire process of filmmaking.”
Releasing a film in a pandemic has had its challenges, however, and Caouette says that Covid tests and protocols have pushed budgets beyond the capacity of many indie filmmakers. He said: “The online streaming sector is thriving because they don’t have any obligations to pay back investors, distributors or sales agents. The only objective of a streaming service is to increase the number of subscribers, to drive up their share price. Indie film has been forced even further into the fringes than it was pre-pandemic. People don’t realise that if you want to have a chance to break even on a feature film you need to cap your entire budget at around $15,000 – which is absurd considering that a Netflix series spends that much money every 15 minutes.”
Caouette says that a successful career in stunts depends on talent, perseverance, and luck: “If you are in the right place with the right skills with the right contacts, you will get a shot at a career. If you suffer a head injury or a serious joint or spinal injury then your career will be cut short. Perseverance pays off and despite its challenges, for the right type of person, it is the best job in the world. I can’t imagine my life without stunts.”
‘American Badger’ is film noir meets explosive action, and is inspired by the earlier works of the legendary Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. Caouette’s character fights an astonishing 120 drug dealers, sex traffickers and gangsters, and the sequences took four months in training and choreography.
Caouette’s extensive knowledge of action design and choreography, plus years of performing fights in movies like ‘Watchmen’ and ‘X-Men’, gave him the necessary skills to put together large fight sequences that compete with the best martial arts scenes in huge-budget productions.
‘American Badger’ received several four-star reviews by major critics at its premiere at the Glasgow International Film Festival. However, even though the target audience skews male, the film received the best reviews from female critics. This is probably due to the fact that the film is not a traditional action film – the character Caouette plays is not heroic or overly masculine, but rather existential and deeply troubled, which some viewers find refreshing.
Caouette has one project, ‘American Velvet’, in post-production and another three projects in development. ‘American Velvet’ is the same story as ‘American Badger’, but told entirely through the perspective of Velvet – the lead female character. The challenge for Caouette as a storyteller was figuring out how a female character might interpret her relationship with Badger and the events that transpire after he enters her life. Velvet’s version of events contradicts Badger’s, which makes the film a study on human perception. ‘American Velvet’ is expected to be released late 2021 or early 2022.
Caouette’s next project is a female-driven action film, ‘Crossed’, in which the lead character is more of a Jason Statham-type role, a bad-ass full of charisma. ‘Crossed’ is being produced by Massey Entertainment with the support of Telefilm Canada.