When family members appear on screen portraying characters who share their real life relationships, something special often happens. We’ve seen it with Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon, Henry and Jane Fonda in On Golden Pond, and now you can see it with Donald and Kiefer Sutherland in Forsaken. With over 30 overlapping years in the business, you would think this would have happened already, and while they have appeared in the same movie before, this is the first time the Sutherlands have played father and son. It was worth the wait.
Forsaken is an extremely archetypal western. Kiefer plays a civil war veteran who, instead of returning home after the war, made a name for himself as a gunslinger. When we meet him, this not-so-young gun is attempting to give up his old ways and reconnect with his estranged father who he soon learns is being harassed by a local gang hired to muscle farmers off their land. You can guess where it goes from there.
The film flirts with cliche at times, while firmly kissing it on the lips at others. Much of it is predictable, but the biggest surprise is how good it really is, particularly if you’re a fan of the genre. Like the underrated Open Range, Forsakenisn’t trying to reinvent the Western, it’s just proving why the genre has connected with audiences since the beginning of cinema.
Donald and Kiefer bring the hard emotions when they’re required to, but the film is elevated by an excellent supporting cast that includes Brian Cox, Demi Moore, and Michael Wincott (who deserves more roles like this). Despite the film expounding the virtues of pacifism, there are very few indicators that this is a Canadian production, which is an unfortunate yet valid compliment.