Forsaken full movie review - Show, don't tell.
...is what "Forsaken" doesn't really do. It prefers to tell us instead of showing, and this is where it ultimately fails in being anything else but an OK western.
But if you're alright with an OK western, this might be worth your time. It's ultimately a carbon copy of many westerns, and if I am to draw any comparisons, "Unforgiven" comes to mind. "Unforgiven" had also plenty of moments where things were spelled out for the audience, but it dared to show these things as well, and it had depth to it.
Anyway, the plot of "Forsaken" is simple and one that's been done many times: A man (Kiefer Sutherland) wants to forget his violent past and live a decent life without murdering anyone, as he tries to reconcile with his father (Donald Sutherland, Kiefer's real life father). Then bad things happen.
Two things keep this movie alive. First thing is the Sutherlands. While this movie can be quite hollow and superficial in its emotional depth, these two share a couple good moments. The best moments in the movie, in fact. Outside of those moments, both can rely on their natural charisma.
The second thing is the anticipation for the inevitable breaking point and violent showdown. We know it's coming, and it can be quite fun to wait for it. But when it comes, it's quite underwhelming. It's executed in such a boring, flat manner that at no time did I see a remorseless man with a murderous past, or any death-defying rage. Don't just give us a standard, emotionless shootout as a payoff, when you set up something more satisfying. This doesn't only hamper your movie's entertainment level, but it also goes against the character you focused so much on.
That said, "Forsaken" can also be taken as a reconciliation story, and that's where it delivers. It's not very deep and most of it is hammered to your head, but when it works, it works. There's an element of Christian faith somewhere here too, without any modern obligation to put it down (which is what I liked in another western called "Bone Tomahawk" too, but that's more of a horror movie than a western in the end). Donald Sutherland plays a preacher, and is a man of faith. His faith and His son's cynical, traumatized mind are somewhat clashing throughout the movie. Kiefer and Donald Sutherland carry the film when nothing else seemingly can, and I can't help but wonder: what if the whole movie was about their relationship, instead of having your run-of-the-mill revenge story at its core? I see a missed opportunity here.
Demi Moore plays a character that wasn't really needed. She felt a bit forced. One could argue that she was only there to let us know more about Kiefer Sutherland's character, but it still seemed off. At least her story wasn't as predictable as I feared. Brian Cox has played a villain many times, and he was just here to get his paycheck. Don't get me wrong, a paycheck-collecting Brian Cox is still better than no Brian Cox at all, but his character was lacking and ultimately didn't carry much weight.
Michael Wincott gives a really enthusiastic performance though, which is funny because his character is really restrained. He is very good in this, and they even managed to not make him as clichéd as it first seemed. Shame they didn't utilize him more, but he stole almost every scene he was in. Also, I think it was Kira Bradley (not sure) who played a grieving, angry widow for a few seconds. She was intense, and worthy of mentioning in a movie that sadly often lacked intensity.
I didn't pay much attention to cinematography and score. Some might say that's a good thing, and sometimes it can be, but then again I wasn't impressed either. I liked the costumes though, and some of the sets and props.
To summarize: "Forsaken" is okay, nothing more. It's a story we've seen many times. Sometimes it absolutely nails the father/son reconciliation story elements, but ends up being a little emotionless and flat in the action/revenge department. It doesn't feel as tight and intense as it should have been, and they could have scrapped a few characters and sub-plots for some extra focus. Both Sutherlands are good enough though, and Wincott eats the screen whenever he appears. It's decent, and sometimes decent is enough. Set your expectations accordingly and you might like it. I wasn't impressed, but I don't regret watching it either.