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Forsaken (Kiefer Sutherland) - DVD Review

Forsaken

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE on-screen pairing of Kiefer and Donald Sutherland provides the main reason for seeing Forsaken, a Western that steadfastly adheres to genre convention and sometimes suffers for it.

Directed by Jon Cassar, a veteran of Kiefer’s 24 series, the film works best as a character study of the old school variety, tipping its hat to the classic style of High Noon and Open Range as well as Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider and even The Outlaw Josey Wales.

Yet it could arguably have benefited from a little more complexity, or a revisionist approach akin to Eastwood’s own Unforgiven to leave a longer lasting impression.

Kiefer Sutherland plays John Henry Clayton, a notorious gunslinger, who returns to his hometown in 1872 for the first time since he left to fight in the Civil War, determined to patch things up with his estranged father (Donald Sutherland) and lay down his guns for good.

Haunted by past mis-deeds, Clayton must work hard to win back the respect of his minister father, Rev William, but also finds himself increasingly drawn into the turmoil being created by a tyrannical capitalist (Brian Cox) and his gunslinger deputy (Michael Wincott), who are determined to force residents off their land in order to make way for a railroad.

With the odds stacked against the peaceful townsfolk, surely it is only a matter of time before Clayton will pick up his guns once more.

It almost goes without saying that the direction of Forsaken is never really in doubt – but a little more nuance in the story might have gone a long way. In story terms, this rides a tried and tested trail, complete with black and white heroes and villains. There are very few surprises in store.

But that’s not to dismiss the film entirely, for the real joy here lies in seeing some of the characters at play – particularly the long-awaited on-screen pairing between the Sutherlands. Their scenes together are particularly strong, not least during Kiefer’s big confession over the traumatic incident that forced him to re-evaluate his life. There’s poignancy to match the power of what’s being said and it leaves you thirsting for more.

Similarly of note are the scenes between Sutherland Jr and Wincott, whose equally war-ravaged gunslinger displays a deep respect for his potential opponent. Wincott’s eloquence, delivered in his own inimitable vocal style, evokes memories of the begrudging respect that existed between Eastwood and John Vernon in Josey Wales, and is nicely defined right up until their final moments together.

If Cox’s villain is a little too one dimensional, it’s still clear he’s having fun in the role, while Kiefer Sutherland himself does his best Eastwood impression, drawing on a lot of Pale Rider-style elements, as well as the world-weary disposition of Kevin Costner’s gunman in Open Range.

It’s just a shame that, overall, Forsaken didn’t take a few more risks, with even the frustrated romance between Sutherland and Demi Moore feeling underwhelming.

If you’re a fan of Westerns, however, then Forsaken does provide an enjoyable enough ride – one you will have seen many times before, but one that nevertheless resonates because of the strength of its performances.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: July 11, 2016