Year 9, Day 101 - 4/11/17 - Movie #2,595
BEFORE: I suppose "The Revenant" really counts as a Western, because it took place in the American territories, but it was a bit closer to colonial times, before there were really cowboys - though there were Native Americans, obviously. So here's another Western, one that I put on the same DVD as "The Revenant", because that film was long and this one was short, and they were made in the same year, 2015, though one got a LOT more attention than the other one. And to make me happy, they happen to share two actors - Christopher Rosamond and Chris Ippolito carry over.
THE PLOT: An embittered gunslinger attempts to make amends with his estranged father while their community is besieged by ruthless land-grabbers.
AFTER: You usually know where you stand with a Western, it's generally pretty easy to know who to root for, even if they're not wearing white hats. Or maybe this one just looks simple compared with "The Revenant" - heck, what wouldn't look simple compared to "The Revenant", with its fur trappers, French fur trappers, trackers, helpful Indians, deadly Indians, and a deadlier bear. All you need to know about "Forsaken" is that the bad guys are forcing people to sell their land. They never say what they want it for, but I've seen enough Westerns to know that this probably means the railroad's coming to town soon.
Kiefer Sutherland, son of Donald, plays John Henry Clayton, son of Rev. William Clayton, conveniently played by his father, Donald. Well, sure, and they already look like father and son, right? John Henry finally returns home after a notorious career as a gunslinger to find that his mother is dead, and his father's still as crotchety as ever. The woman he loved has married another man, and then we've got these people buying up all the farms, whether the people want to sell them or not. (Those who don't want to sell seem to end up shot dead.) So John Henry's not really having a good week, though I guess it could be worse if he also got mauled by a bear.
He's given up his quick-draw gun-toting, which would only be a problem if the bad guys kept tormenting him and his father. But we know in Westerns you can only push a man so far before he fights back, so we spend most of this comparatively short feature waiting for him to pick up his gun and join the fight. Turns out he's rather good at it, killing only the bad people, even though it draws him back to a life on the run, which he thought he'd put behind him. But hey, find what you're good at, and if you enjoy it, then it's really not work, right?
Reportedly, the first cut of this film was over three hours long, and it got trimmed back to about 90 minutes. I think that was a good call, because they reduced the role of a lot of minor characters to just focus on the father-son relationship. And because the father's a preacher and the son's a former killer, well this raises a lot of questions about the existence of God and the nature of good and evil. Like, when is it OK to fight back? Some would say that "an eye for an eye" leaves the whole world blind, but The Bible would have people turning the other cheek, and that's only good if you like being hit twice. Somewhere in between, maybe there's a reasonable medium.
I'm reminded of that old Meat Loaf/Jim Steinman song, "Rock 'N Roll Dreams Come Through", that went: "You can't run away forever, but there's nothing wrong with getting a good head start."
Also starring Kiefer Sutherland (last seen in "Zoolander 2"), Donald Sutherland (last seen in a cameo in "Billion Dollar Brain"), Demi Moore (last seen in "About Last Night..."), Brian Cox (last seen in "Pixels"), Aaron Poole, Michael Wincott (last seen in "The Count of Monte Cristo"), Greg Ellis (last seen in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"), Siobhan Williams, Dylan Smith, Landon Liboiron, Wesley Morgan (last seen in "Kick-Ass 2"), Michael Therriault (last seen in "Total Recall" (2012)).
RATING: 5 out of 10 tree stumps