A drifter, who hung up his guns years ago, returns to his hometown and is lassoed into completing one last task in “Forsaken,” which releases to limited theaters and VOD on Feb. 19. It’s nothing new, especially in the western genre. But “Forsaken,” despite taking no risks with the genre, makes for a good time with the help of its cast.
Kiefer Sutherland is John Henry Clayton, a Civil War veteran returning to his hometown in Wyoming and reconnecting with his estranged father (Donald Sutherland). Their first encounter is a long stare, one in which it appears the father is unappeased by his son’s random appearance after a decade-long disappearance. The first thing the father tells his son is that his mother is dead.
But it’s not just discovering that his mother died that John Henry has to deal with. The town’s land baron, James McCurdy (Brian Cox), has a plan to purchase as many peoples’ homes as possible, and then demolish them for a new railroad. Those who don’t comply get shot. So John Henry, who swore off violence years ago, must get armed and ready for one last showdown.
There’s also the woman he once loved (Demi Moore). She has since moved on, having been married for the last eight years and giving birth to a child. But, as expected, she appears to still have feelings for John Henry.
“Forsaken” comes across as something with some seriously strong potential. Sure, it’s generic, but with the strong cast in play, they could have gone somewhere great with this. As it is, though, it’s something that is good for what it is, but could have been more. We get a 90-minute runtime, making it not too much of a slog, but also making us wanting maybe another 30 minutes.
Both the Sutherlands do fine work with their respective roles, even though there are some scenes in which both actors don’t appear to give it their all. However, one scene in a church is especially moving when we see the father and son relationship slowly rekindling.
Cox’s appearance makes one reminisce about the greatness of HBO’s “Deadwood,” in which he guest starred. And that’s mostly because he’s the one cast member who gets to fire off a few F-bombs and does it oh so well with his sinister performance.
But of all the actors in this modestly-budgeted western, the one that stands out the most is Michael Wincott’s Dave Turner, a gunman employed by McCurdy and knows of a time when John Henry Clayton wielded a gun. Though Dave is somewhat of an antagonist here, Wincott’s delivery – with his slick, outlaw drawl intact – makes the viewer attracted to what this character has in store.
“Forsaken” is more of a slow-burning western that leads up to the big shootout between John Henry and McCurdy’s gang. A few shots are fired beforehand, but there aren’t too many gun battles overall here. The big shootout itself, though, is well shot and worth the wait.
There are a few memorable moments throughout “Forsaken,” but the overall film doesn’t quite have the impact of a Clint Eastwood-starring western or even one like last year’s “Bone Tomahawk.” It’s a quick breeze of a film, but, for what it is, it’s enjoyable and worth checking out at least once.