Father and son team up for a Western in the classic style. Kiefer Sutherland plays John Henry Clayton, a troubled man who left to fight in the Civil War and returns to his hometown after a 10-year absence. Donald Sutherland is his father, the reverend of a small town who’s disappointed by how John Henry’s decade-long exodus affected his late mother. He isn’t the only one hurt by John Henry’s absence: Mary Alice (Demi Moore), his childhood sweetheart, married another man after the years ticked by. Rounding out the cast of standard Western tropes is delightfully evil robber baron James McCurdy (Brian Cox), trying and mostly succeeding to muscle the town’s small farmers off their land. When one aggrieved widow promises to spit on his grave, McCurdy replies, unfazed, “Feel free to do so, provided you can find your way to the front of the line.”
Forsaken revels in riffing. There’s a vengeful guns-blazing bar entrance, straight out of Unforgiven. There’s the climactic showdown with a gunslinging man in black, though it ends a little differently than Shane’s does. There’s even a nod at the elder Sutherland’s most famous role in Ordinary People: John Henry’s brother died in a river accident when they were young, the misunderstanding of which began the years-long rift between father and son.
The downside of this is that pretty much everything in Forsaken has been done better elsewhere. The off-screen connection between the Sutherlands does little to energize Kiefer’s performance. Donald spits hot fire and brimstone, but Kiefer remains as bland an avenging angel of action as ever. B–