Directed by Jon Cassar.
Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Demi Moore and Brian Cox.
Kiefer and Donald Sutherland share the screen in this brooding western about an embittered gunslinger who attempts to make amends with his estranged father whilst their community is besieged by ruthless land-grabbers.
The Western, the once mainstream genre, has dwindled down to a handful of productions a year now. As times have changed, very little has developed within the Western genre, and it’s really down to the added gore or female-focused narratives that have shown a matured representation. But, despite trying to engage contemporary audiences, new additions such as Jane Got a Gun, The Homesman, and Cowboys & Aliens have all failed at the box office. Modernistic directors such as Tarantino with Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight have successfully reinvigorated it, but only due to an extremely fresh take or die-hard fanbase enabling it to do so.
The latest attempt to cash in on that old staple form is Forsaken. Boasting the on-screen pairing of father and son actors Donald and Kiefer Sutherland, Forsaken has a decent set of names in its cast (including Demi Moore and Brian Cox), and a terrific score and cinematographer, but it slithers along, rarely engaging you beyond its shoot-outs. The latter is a feature of the Western that can really thrill. The bullet-ridden end to The Wild Bunch or Open Range give you something exciting to walk away remembering. It is often the opportunity that writers and director latch on to, in order to give their film that extra spark. Forsaken’s Jon Cassar, largely a TV director, famed for 24, seems worn out from Kiefer’s perilous adventures in the hit TV series, and leaves his leading man with little to do, and a dull screen presence.
Donald, by the skin of his teeth, adds a bit more majesty and acting prowess to the film, but is set up as a McGuffin half-way through the film, leaving you sensing only his contrivance. Demi Moore is originally who you sense to be the trigger for the trigger pulling, but additionally gets washed away in the tide of tedium. There is just not enough for them to do, wandering into scenes ,or awaiting Kiefer to crack and bring some much-needed energy to the piece.
It’s not to say the entire film is dull, and there is a lovingly crafted piece of work in amongst the narrative and character errors. Rene Ohashi’s crisp photography shows off the dusty landscape beautifully at times, and Jonathan Goldsmith’s classical score immediately throws you into that genre and the sense of cinema that comes with it.
Forsaken is more an attempt at something like Unforgiven, with a grizzled story of a retired gunfighter having to return to his old ways. It’s the basic elements that have obviously allowed it its green-light, and what will please Western fans. However, for anyone looking for a new Western to open them up to the genre, or wanting an escape from the comic-book crammed cinemas, they won’t find much in this.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★