VOD film review: Forsaken
Sutherland and Sutherland7.5
Matthew Turner | On 11, Jul 2016
Director: Jon Cassar
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Demi Moore, Brian Cox
Watch Forsaken online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
There’s something to be said for the simple pleasures of an old-fashioned Western – while the plot may be entirely predictable, there’s a huge amount of entertainment to be had just watching the familiar scenes and tropes play out, especially when they’re done well. That is certainly the case with Forsaken; you know exactly where it’s going from the moment each character is introduced, but it’s still a lot of fun taking the trip.
Set in 1872 Wyoming, the film stars Kiefer Sutherland as John Henry Clayton, a former Civil War soldier turned gunslinger, who returns to his home town to make amends with his pacifist preacher father, William (Donald Sutherland). However, Clayton’s promise to hang up his guns for good comes under pressure when he discovers that the townsfolk are being run out of their homes by ruthless land-grabber James McCurdy (Cox) and his gang of hired heavies, including dapper gunfighter Gentleman Dave (Michael Wincott) and trigger-happy scumbag Frank Tillman (Aaron Poole).
A key part of Forsaken’s appeal lies in the casting of Donald and Kiefer Sutherland as father and son – it’s the first time they have appeared together on-screen and the set-up between William and John Henry offers a tantalising echo of their real-life past estrangement. To that end, their scenes together are genuinely moving, especially during a tearful, heartfelt confession scene, during which Kiefer displays hitherto unsuspected emotional depth.
The performances are superb across the board: Kiefer is note-perfect as the grizzled gunfighter trying to atone for his past, so much so that you instantly hope his experience on Forsaken has kick-started a desire to do more Westerns. Sutherland Snr is equally good as Reverend Clayton and there’s terrific scenery-chewing support from Brian Cox (clearly putting his time spent on Deadwood to good use) as McCurdy, while Demi Moore puts in a touching performance as the woman John Henry left behind (it’s also refreshing to see some age-appropriate casting for once).
However, the film is very nearly stolen by Michael Wincott as courtly, principled gunslinger Gentleman Dave – the air of mutual respect between him and John Henry gives that relationship an intriguing edge, particularly when it comes to the final showdown (“You don’t have to run, Dave – you can walk…”), while his costume and slow, measured delivery make him an impressively memorable character.
Brad Mirman’s script duly trots out all the genre-dictated staples, each of which unfolds in an immensely satisfying manner, thanks to solid, assured direction from Jon Cassar (who’s previously worked with Kiefer on 24). Genre-wise, there is a slight lean in the direction of the Clint Eastwood westerns, given the savage beatings John Henry is willing to take, when he’s still turning the other cheek, but otherwise all the expected moments are present and correct, from the gunmen-threatening-homesteaders sequence to the climactic shoot-outs. On top of that, the dialogue contains several great lines (every exchange between Kiefer and Wincott is a joy) and Rene Ohashi’s scenic cinematography makes the most of the authentic-looking locations, with Alberta standing in for Wyoming.
Thanks to a note-perfect cast and an obvious love for the genre, this is a treat for Western fans.