Henry Clayton is a preacher’s son with three first names, so he must be good at
killing. He is also a machine when it comes to clearing brush. He will try to
lay down his pistols and immerse himself in the latter, but his former life
will not let him be in Jon Cassar’s Forsaken
which opens this Friday in New York.
did not even know his mother had died, so his unexpected homecoming is even
more awkward. He had not been seen in the small Wyoming community since he left
to fight for the Union. Unfortunately, war changes a man, especially at places
like Shiloh. While Clayton is sketchy on the details, somehow he was subsequently
caught up in a life of gunslinging. In fact, Clayton achieved such a level of notoriety,
he constantly had to deal with ill-advised glory-seekers looking to make their
name by taking him down.
takes Clayton about thirty seconds to figure out there is more amiss in his old
home town than the Reverend’s cold shoulder. James McCurdy has openly been harassing
the hardscrabble homesteaders to sell-out to him on advantageous terms. Dave
Turner, McCurdy’s smooth talking hired gun prefers to keep Clayton on the
sidelines, but Pickard, the rabid dog enforcer is determined to provoke and
humiliate the reformed gun fighter at every opportunity. Discovering his old
flame Mary Alice Watson is now a married mother is also a bit of a downer for
Clayton. Obviously, this turning the other cheek cannot continue indefinitely.
The question is how much damage will Pickard do before Clayton resigns himself
to the inevitable?
Forsaken is a refreshingly straightforward
western that makes no apologies for observing genre conventions. Donald and
Kiefer Sutherland are certainly believable as Clayton Père and Fils. Although
they have worked together several times in the past, this is their first time playing
on-screen father and son. If you get a sense of the tortured Jack Bauer trying
to go straight in John Henry that also rather figures. The Malta-born Cassar
previously directed Sutherland for fifty-nine hours of 24 (where every second counted). In this case, that familiarity resulted
in an appropriately flinty and gritty performance.
Moore is perfectly fine as Watson and Brian Cox chews plenty of villainous
scenery as McCurdy. However, Michael Wincott (24: Live Another Day) steals scene after scene as the moral
ambiguous, slyly charismatic Turner. Dylan Smith (a.k.a. Eddie the Sleeping Walking Cannibal) also makes an impression as the mean-as-a-snake henchman
Screenwriter Brad Mirman deserves credit for a pitch
perfect ending that should leave western fans fully satisfied for a change.
Unlike recent murky, self-loathing westerns like Diablo and Angels and Outlaws
(at Sundance), Forsaken rides
into town with a purpose and it doesn’t leave until it has taken care of
business. Recommended pretty enthusiastically, Forsaken opens this Friday (2/19) in New York, at the Cinema
Labels: Donald Sutherland, Kiefer Sutherland, Western Cinema