Forsaken, the 2016 western starring both the Sutherland’s could be seen as Kiefer’s version of the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven. Not in texture, however, as Sutherland’s film is much less downtrodden. While there are control issues in the story, the town and scenery are nowhere near as bleak as Eastwood’s oater.
The film, written by Brad Mirman and directed by Jon Cassar, tells the story of John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland). A Civil War veteran turned gunslinger who hangs up this guns and tries to turn away from violence. He returns to his family home and attempts to reconcile the past and make amends with his father Reverend Clayton (Donald Sutherland).
He meets an old flame, Mary-Alice Watson (Demi Moore) who has married and moved on. John Henry also meets another veteran Gentleman Dave Turner (Michael Wincott). Turner works for local businessman James McCurdy (Brian Cox).
McCurdy is taking over small land-holdings by threat and bullets from his gang of surly, bullying gunfighters. The deadly group are lead by Frank Tillman (Aaron Poole). A nasty bit of work, Tillman zeroes in on John Henry the moment he arrives in town.
Forsaken is a slow build. Like other westerns on offer of late, for example the 2014 Danish western “The Salvation,” or even the older Eastwood homage to Shane; Pale Rider, the “townsfolk” all seem a little too beaten down. It is, however, understandable as McCurdy does have a good sized violence-prone gang ready to do his bidding.
As westerns go, this one is a good fit. It follows a certain credo and feels like something that Louis L’Amour would have written. (The scene between Turner and Clayton just emits the L’Amour mythos of professional courtesy.)
The two Sutherland’s work beautifully together and Demi Moore provides an excellent portrait of the childhood love left behind. Cox’s villainous land grabber is a little too foul mouthed for the period, it is really doubtful that “f*ck” was that widely used, if at all, in the time of Queen Victoria and the primness that entailed.
(That could be down to the script however and not Mr. Cox who plays any role with a deep authenticity.)
Overall Forsaken took a long time to reach its, almost, forgone conclusion. Despite this nearly languid approach to the climax, it is well worth the wait.
Throughout the film there are moments that look to be full blown homages to other movies. The scene in the street in front of the town store takes a completely different turn. (One expects Clayton to employ his newly purchased axe handle…)
Kiefer Sutherland certainly “earned his spurs” once again, the actor is familiar with the genre, he was in Young Guns and that film’s sequel Young Guns II. He gave his character a certain credibility and not once did he “fan” his guns.
Set in the period after the Civil War (the 1870s) everything looked “right.” Although the church having so many glass windows spoke of a property that the town really did not reflect overall.
Overall, Forsaken is a 5 star film. It is a solid western that does not delve too deeply into the psychological meanderings that helped to kill the genre in the late ’60s and early ’70s. It does feel a little like Sutherland’s own “Unforgiven,” but the message is different.
Eastwood’s film focussed on violence being horrific and wasteful. This western’s message is that violence is sometimes necessary; the bullies of the world will not stop until the good guys stop them…physically.
Available on Showtime, mosey on over and check this one out. Before saddling up and heading out, check out the trailer below: