Returning gunslinger John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) encounters more than the quiet life he’d hoped for, when he discovers his Reverend father (Donald Sutherland) is under threat from a greedy landowner. That’s pretty much it for the plot, and the character arcs and narratives are exactly what you would expect from a throwback Western that is desperate to bring some nostalgia to a resurgent genre. Yet, while the film may lack any real depth or substance, there are many things to like within Jon Cassar’s Forsaken.
The father-son relationship between the Sutherlands, albeit a formulaic one, is endearing enough to be enjoyably watchable. As you would expect, there is an effortless ease emanating from their scenes, and both manage to reign in (apart from some final exchanges) any urge to crank up the melodrama. There is strong support from a brooding Brian Cox, who leaves at least some of the period scenery un-chewed, and Demi Moore offers a little light romantic interest, despite having a role no larger than an extended cameo. The real star, though, is Michael Wincott who, from the moment he first appears and first opens his larynx to release those darkly, grinding tones, steals every scene he appears in. You just get the sense (and perhaps hope) this is how he is all the time; moodily prowling around at home, growling at unwanted guests brave enough to knock on his door unexpectedly.
The film also looks stunning, with Cassar doing his best John Ford impression in presenting the location in a leading role. Not as grimy and manure-laden as some recent Westerns we could name, but it does all feel very authentic.
The issues come if you analyse that paper-thin plot too closely. This is a script very much by the numbers, with the homecoming-son-keen-to-go-straight-but-can’t storyline being easily transferrable to any genre you like. There is nothing new or original; nothing that will linger long in the memory once the end credits roll, but Forsaken is still a film to be enjoyed. The performances themselves justify that.
So, there’s no need to rush out and buy or download Forsaken; perhaps wait for a Freeview option. But once it does appear, once it does cross your path, sit down with a cold beer or a decent glass of wine and just allow yourself to enjoy it. It won’t trouble you for long, but will give you 90 minutes in the company of some great actors, and that’s not a bad thing, is it?
FORSAKEN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JON CASSAR / SCREENPLAY: BRAD MIRMAN / STARRING: KIEFER SUTHERLAND, DONALD SUTHERLAND, BRIAN COX, DEMI MOORE, MICHAEL WINCOTT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW