Director: Jon Cassar
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland & Brian Cox
Synopsis: An embittered gun-slinger attempts to make amends with his estranged father whilst their community is besieged by ruthless and-grabbers.
Rating: 15 Duration: 90 minutes Release date: 11 July (UK)
Many modern Westerns are guilty of attempting to do something different with the genre. They play on the old classics while adding some modern ingenuity into things to keep them fresh. Forsaken does not want to do that, instead Forsaken is a very traditional Western with events and morals played out in black and white. And Forsaken is all the better for it, instead of looking to define itself by being different, it has taken the idea that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) has served his country during the American Civil War and despite seeing his fair share of death, John Henry could not repress the anger he has found within himself. Turning to a life as a gun-slinger for hire, he has abandoned his family and home town, leaving behind his mother and father to tend to the family home. When John Henry does eventually return, he is besieged by grief after learning his mother has passed away during his absence.
His father, Reverend William Clayton (Donald Sutherland) struggles to accept John Henry’s sudden return. Their relationship already fractured, has become even more so with 10 years having passed since he abandoned them for a life his deeply religious father did not approve of. Their tense relationship forms the backbone of the film, with John Henry struggling to gain his father’s approval after a decade in the wilderness while William’s contempt is there for all to see.
Despite several co-starring roles, this is the first time that Kiefer and Donald Sutherland have shared the screen together. Their scenes offer some of the best drama that Forsaken has to offer, while a palpable tension between the two rings of so many father-son relationships that are formed through both love and, dare I say, some bitterness toward each other. Even the greatest relations between a man and his son can become fractured through the slightest of means and Forsaken excels in showing this.
While John Henry and William attempt to reconcile their differences, a local opportunist; a cussing and scene stealing Brian Cox, is buying up people’s land before the railway heads into town. Not a man to get his hands dirty, McCurdy (Cox) employs a gang of stern looking men who go about town beating and, if needs be, killing anyone who isn’t forthcoming with an agreement to have their land taken from them. The wonderful Michael Wincott leads the unruly group, while giving a very understated performance as on old friend of John Henry’s.
Like any Western, the pace is slow, the music is unmistakable and the choices a man makes in life are easily distinguishable between good and bad. Forsaken harks back to a simpler time, when people had their wits and their life skills to get by and where a sense of honour was still apparent. It won’t be for everyone, but Forsaken is a welcome addition to the Western genre and it’s choice to not do anything new pays dividends for traditionalists.
- Making of – 11 minutes