The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Sunday, April 10, 2016


While superhero, horror and animated flicks dominate theaters on a week-to-week basis, the western....well, you've got to search out that generally forgotten genre quite a bit more. There's been some options at least in '16, including Jane Got a Gun (pretty good) and Diablo (pretty bad), and a Magnificent Seven remake is even scheduled for an August release. So where does 2016's Forsaken fall? Keep on reading, pardner!

It's been years since the end of the Civil War and John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) is finally coming home. He's spent those years drifting along from town to town, hiring on as a gunfighter, as a hired gun, whoever needs his service with a pistol. Now, he's looking to hang up his gunbelt and move on, settle down, and especially mend his relationship with his father, a reverend, William (Donald Sutherland). Years apart has not mellowed either man with some past wounds still very fresh. John Henry is committed though, and he intends to go straight. That's going to be easier said than done. James McCurdy (Brian Cox), a local businessman, is looking to scoop up all the land for miles and doing so with fear tactics, intimidation and straight-out murder. The only one capable of stopping McCurdy and his own gunmen? John Henry Clayton, who must now decide if he'll strap on his gunbelt one more time.

I rented this western from Redbox this week. The Internet reports that 'Forsaken' was released theatrically in February, but it must have been the shortest theatrical release ever. I look for flicks like this and didn't see it anywhere near the Chicago-area! So however its release was handled, the end result is the same....

It's a good, old-fashioned, traditional western. It doesn't try to rewrite the genre, bringing to life one of the more familiar western stories around. Bad guy wants land, land owners can't/won't fight back, gunfighter must stand up to bad guy. Lather, rinse and repeat! It's Shane and The Magnificent Seven and countless other westerns, but director Jon Cassar is a more than capable filmmaker to have in the director's chair. Filmed in Canada and borrowing some locations from Open Range (along with some basic storytelling devices), 'Forsaken' is content to be a good, old-fashioned western. It looks gorgeous, the score from composer Jonathan Goldsmith is above average and blends well with the story and visual. If you like westerns, this is more than a safe bet. An easy recommendation.

Not surprisingly, 24's Jack Bauer is a pretty easy transition into the western anti-hero. Kiefer Sutherland is very solid as John Henry Clayton, a gunfighter with a checkered past who's looking to go straight. The grizzled, trail-worn look fits Sutherland well, and he slides easily into the genre. His past is doled out in small doses as we see what's driven him to the breaking point. Long story short? He's very good with a pistol but that ability has gotten himself into trouble. There's a cool dynamic -- rather heated at times -- too between the real-life father and son, Kiefer and Donald Sutherland. The elder Sutherland has some unresolved feelings toward his son, long brewing in his gut and struggling to put into words when his son arrives without warning after years away. Surprise member of the cast? Demi Moore -- a welcome addition! -- as a lost love of Kiefer's who's moved on...or has she?!?

Now the fun of the pretty straightforward good guy vs. bad guy angle is that the bad guys can be very, very bad. Dirty, despicable, murdering, conniving, backstabbing folks. Who better for that than Brian Cox? No One. He's clearly having some fun as the sneering villain who you just love to hate. Aaron Poole plays his brutal enforcer while Michael Wincott is a scene-stealer as Gentleman Dave Turner, a well-dressed, polite, lives by a code hired gun who's nonetheless brutally efficient with a gun. It's the best part in the movie, and Wincott's scenes with Kiefer Sutherland are a gem, featuring some great dialogue as two tough guys test out the water back and forth to see where they stand.

Nothing fancy here from beginning to end with a western that clocks in at just under 90 minutes. The action is saved for the finale when John Henry has finally had enough -- you can only pushed a deadly gunfighter so far I've learned :) -- and decides to do something about it. Some cool moments, a good twist, and a satisfying ending to a pretty decent little western. Worth checking out.

Forsaken (2016): ***/****

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