When I reviewed The Crow back in May, I said in the comment section that I wanted to see Michael Wincott cast in a western, as I thought it would be a perfect casting choice. As the months have gone by, I discovered that Michael had starred in the 2015 western film, Forsaken! The Legends of Western Cinema Week is what reminded me of this wish. As a blogger of my word, I chose to review Forsaken as one of my two entries for this event! The western genre is one that isn’t often covered on my blog. While I do re-cap When Calls the Heart, this is an exception to the rule. The last western I reviewed was Little House: Bless All the Dear Children back in July, with the review before that being last year’s When Calls the Heart: Home for Christmas. I figured the Legends of Western Cinema Week served as a good excuse to revisit the western genre for the first time in about a month!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When I reviewed Caesar and Cleopatra last September, I said in the comment section how Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of Cleopatra felt like Scarlett O’Hara was playing dress-up. This is because I thought the film’s creative team was attempting to take advantage of the popularity and success of Gone with the Wind. As Michael Wincott’s character, Gentleman Dave Turner, was first introduced with the film’s villains, I wondered if this portrayal was going to be a western genre version of Top Dollar from The Crow. Instead, Michael’s performance and the screenwriting presented a character that was his own person with his own story! A consistent aspect of Michael’s portrayal of Dave was the calmness he displayed. Even in the direst of situations, he always appeared to have control of his emotions. When I think of Kiefer Sutherland, I think of his portrayal of Jack Bauer from 24. Spending so much time on a show with a mix of drama and action seems to have paid off for Kiefer, as he was able to display a wide range of emotions! In one scene, Keifer’s character, John Henry, is recalling a fateful decision from his past. As he reflects over the lives of the people he hurt, his demeanor slowly transitions from remorse to sorrowfully sobbing. I’ve seen very few projects from Donald Sutherland’s filmography. However, I did think his portrayal of Reverend Samuel was strong! In a scene where his character is having an argument with John Henry about faith, Donald’s character quickly goes from calm and collected to yelling with anger. His emotionality definitely added to his overall performance!
The scenery: According to IMDB, Forsakenwas filmed in Alberta, Canada. This particular landscape was captured very well throughout the film! Distant mountains paired with a blue sky were shown in establishing shots. These natural elements provided a great contrast to the lush, green fields also found in the movie. Forests were a part of the story as well, with sunlight giving this space a natural glow. The overall setting of Forsaken was picturesque and calming, which is different from the rough terrain that is a staple of westerns. This kind of scenery reminded me of shows like Little House of the Prairie and When Calls the Heart!
The on-screen chemistry: In Forsaken, John Henry reconnects with his former love interest, Mary Alice, who was portrayed by Demi Moore. Keifer and Demi had good on-screen chemistry, as their characters appeared to truly care about each other! Through these performances, John Henry and Mary Alice’s interactions came across as bittersweet. This drove the point home that the romantic nature of their relationship was left in the past. There was also good on-screen chemistry among the other actors! During the film, the tension between John Henry and Reverend Samuel could be felt. It helps that Keifer and Donald had the emotional intensity to deliver performances that a story like this requires.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The under-utilization of Michael Wincott: As I said in my introduction, the reason I chose to watch Forsaken is because I wanted to see Michael Wincott in a western. While I got what I wanted, I felt his talents were under-utilized. In this hour and thirty-minute film, Michael appeared in about five scenes. His character’s significance in the story was also not made clear. Gentleman Dave Turner can be seen spending his time with the movie’s villains. However, he claims to be John Henry’s friend and doesn’t condone the actions of his villainous cohorts. I found this part of film frustrating because Michael and his character had a purpose for being in this movie, but I couldn’t figure out what that purpose was.
More emphasis on drama: When it comes to the western genre, a certain amount of action is to be expected. Not all westerns utilize action to its fullest extent, but enough action is incorporated into most westerns to keep the story interesting. In Forsaken, the majority of the plot focused on the drama between John Henry and Reverend Samuel’s strained relationship. This part of the story wasn’t bad, but it did overshadow the action. Throughout the film, there were moments where action could be seen. Most of the action took place in the climax, which happened during the last twenty minutes of the movie. This creative decision caused the action to be used sparingly.
An overshadowed conflict: The overarching conflict in Forsaken is how a group of villains are trying to take over a small town. To me, this was the most compelling part of the plot. Because the story placed more emphasis on the estranged relationship of John Henry and his father, the conflict wasn’t given as much attention as I expected. This conflict was addressed in the film from time to time. However, it didn’t feel like its placement was consistent. While the conflict does get revolved, it doesn’t happen until the film’s last twenty minutes.
My overall impression:
On 18 Cinema Lane, it seems like 2020 is the year when wishes come true. First, it was Words on Bathroom Walls receiving a distributor and a release date. Next, it was seeing and reviewing the film, The Wife of Monte Cristo. Now, it’s watching Michael Wincott in a western! As I said in my review, I got what I wanted. However, I feel there was more to be desired from Forsaken as a whole. The conflict involving the villains’ attempts to take over the town was the most compelling part of the movie. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the drama between John Henry and his father. Even though westerns do contain a certain amount of drama, the appeal of this genre is the action/adventure aspect of the world and its characters. This gives the audience the feeling of going on a journey with spirited men and women of the Wild West. Despite this movie being rated R, Forsaken could certainly be transformed into a Breen Code era film! The only two offenses I was able to find were the swearing and the amount of on-screen blood. While violence is expected for a western story, this aspect, along with the language, would need to meet Breen Code standards before production began.
Overall score: 6.1 out of 10
Have you see Forsaken? Are there any western films you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
Click here to join our month-long abstinence from American Breen Era (1934-1954) movies to create greater appreciation for the Code, #AMonthWithoutTheCode2020!
Follow us to bring back the Code and save the arts in America!