J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Forger: Travolta’s Monet

Raymond J. Cutter is not exactly Raffles or the Pink Panther. This working class art thief and forger is a decidedly Gloomy Gus. His son Will’s terminal illness gives him a very valid reason. To get out of prison while there is still time to reconnect with the young lad, Cutter makes a deal with the devil involving a Monet. Eventually, things will get caperish in Philip Martin’s The Forger (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

With a little less than a year left on his sentence, Cutter would ordinarily sit tight and do the time. Unfortunately, time is one thing Will Cutter does not have, so Cutter reaches out to Keegan, a Boston mobster, to “fix” things with the judge. Of course, there will be a quid pro quo. In this case, Cutter must steal Monet’s Woman with a Parasol on loan from the National Gallery, replacing it with a fake. It seems Keegan desperately needs to clear a debt to his art-loving cartel connection—hence the caper.

It takes a while to get to the actual art thievery though. Instead, Martin and screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio force viewers to cool their heels in a lot of hospital waiting rooms and sit through many father-and-son heart-to-hearts. Patience and character development are both good things, but at some point the film starts to feel like it is stalling for time.

It has been a while since Travolta rekindled that old magic on-screen, but in a way that works to his advantage here. Believe it or not, he is quite good as Cutter, forcefully conveying all his guilt and regret, without wallowing in melodramatic excess. Unfortunately, Tye Sheridan is pretty dull and wooden as his son, whereas it is hard to know what to make of Christopher Plummer as Travolta’s extremely Irish father.

There are random flashes of chemistry between Travolta and Abigail Spencer’s Special Agent Paisley, but the film goes out of its way to keep them apart. The actual heist is well executed, but the film’s baffling casts its lead characters as Red Sox fans, thereby making it extremely difficult to establish any degree of viewer sympathy.

Much to the frustration of his fans, The Forger probably ranks as one of Travolta’s better vehicles in recent years (anyone care to make a case for Old Dogs or Wild Hogs? Anyone?). It is not without merit, but it is maddeningly uneven and undeniably slow out of the blocks. Watchable but hardly worthy of Manhattan movie ticket prices, The Forger opens tomorrow (4/24) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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