Thursday, September 08, 2016

Never Push A Man To Pick Up Guns He Threw Down

The gist of Forsaken is that a gunman returns to the town he grew up in after 10 years away, and gets a less-than-warm welcome. John Henry had initially left to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, but got swept up in being the sort of guy with a bad rep that attracts people who want to prove themselves against him. But he's thrown down his guns for Reasons and come home. To find his mother had passed sometime, and his preacher father is not at all pleased with how he's lived his life. Also, the lady he'd been courting had understandably not sat around waiting for the last decade, but has married and has a young son. And there's your typical local big-shot who is trying to force all the other farmers to sell their land with a gang of gunmen. One of the hired guns is the classy type who has rules, tries to be polite, handle things reasonably. He fought in the Civil War too, for the South, and has no desire to stir John up. The rest are led by some stupid grinning sadist, who wants to test himself against John, and does what he can to provoke him. If John takes the bait, he gets the fight he wants. If not, the goons get to kick around a supposed tough guy who doesn't fight back. Win-win. Things do not end well for them, as you'd expect.

It's a fairly bog-standard Western in the Unforgiven mold. Probably the most notable thing is John Henry is played by Kiefer Sutherland, and his father is played by, well, his father Donald Sutherland. Which made me wonder if those guys had some unresolved issues between them, or if Kiefer's mother had died sometime before the film was made. I can't remember ever reading much of anything about what their relationship was like. None of my business, frankly. Maybe they just wanted to do a movie together. For the first half of the film, their characters mostly talk past each other. John Henry won't explain why he didn't come home after the war, or why he's thrown down his guns, or why he's hostile towards his father. And his father is too busy harping on about John needing to get back on the godly path and chiding John for not being their for his mother to deal with what he's feeling.

Demi Moore plays Mary-Alice, which made me think about the last time I saw her in a movie. She's only been in about a dozen films since that Charlie's Angels movie back in '03. Maybe she's been focusing on other things, or maybe it's Hollywood not casting older women. I wouldn't say she gets a great role here, but you can at least see Mary-Alice made some decisions and is trying to stick with him. She's happy to see John Henry, if a little confused by his sudden reappearance, but she's not planning to ditch her husband and son and swan off with this guy. She's built a life in that town, and doesn't seem interested in throwing it away for John Henry, or because of some rich guy with pretensions of being a big wheel.

Brian Cox would have worked better as the main bad guy if I hadn't watched Super Troopers earlier that day. I kept picturing him yelling at Farva and getting in drunk fights.

There is one point where the slackjawed idiot gunmen ride out to a farm for some intimidation, and a bunch of the farmers are lying in ambush. The only manage to kill one of the guys and wound another, but it was nice to see the people working together to try and protect themselves, and not have them turn out to be completely useless. The sheriff had fled in the night sometime earlier, and while Donald Sutherland has contacted the marshal and seems sure that'll fix things, one of the farmers noted they're poor, and the law has never done anything for them. Cox' character will force them to sell, or have them killed and make up his own story about what happened whenever the law does arrive. But his goons had to keep poking the bear.

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