Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kiefer Sutherland, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland, Brian Cox, Michael Wincott, Landon Liboiron, Siobhan Williams, Jonny Rees, Aaron Poole, Ali Webb, Michael Therriault, Christopher Rosamond, Wesley Morgan
Written by: Brad Mirman
Directed by: Jon Cassar
MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language
Running Time: 90
Date: 02/19/2016

Forsaken (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sprung Guns

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it borrows liberally from the classic Shane (1953) and doesn't really offer anything new, this low-key Western still works, thanks to patient storytelling and a batch of strong performances. Emmy winner Jon Cassar, who directed Kiefer Sutherland in the hit TV series 24, is at the helm, and allows for many potent, touching scenes of character interaction that subtly strengthen the drama. Michael Wincott is especially good as a three-dimensional bad guy with a history and a moral compass.

Ex-gunslinger John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) returns home after fighting in the Civil War to discover that his mother has passed away, and his sweetheart (Demi Moore) has married another man. His stern father, the town preacher (Donald Sutherland) frowns on his son's life choices, so he goes about honoring his mother's wish and begins clearing a field for planting. Unfortunately, a ruthless businessman (Brian Cox) is trying to buy up all the nearby land and has resorted to intimidation to do it. He hires the deadly Gentleman Dave Turner (Wincott) and a band of nasty killers to push people around. At first John Henry turns the other cheek, but there's only so far a man can be pushed before he fights back.

It helps that there's a lot of history here. Kiefer and Donald Sutherland play father and son for the first time in a movie, and Kiefer and Demi Moore reunite for the first time since A Few Good Men (1992). Not to mention that the younger Sutherland back in the saddle recalls his Young Guns films. He's older here, and his face has plenty of character; with little dialogue, he effortlessly carries his scenes. Even as the plot slowly heads toward the inevitable, it's not hard to care.

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