Donald Sutherland Stars With His Son Kiefer Sutherland in this New Classic Western Film

An infamous gunslinger returns home, attempting to hang up his guns for good and reconcile with his father. Being a Western, things are never that easy. That simple but essential concept drives Forsaken, a beautifully made Western that recalls a simpler, better time for the once popular genre. Starring Donald Sutherland together with his son Kiefer Sutherland for the first time, Forsaken thoughtfully explores a disappointed father coping with his son being a killer in the Old West.

This is one of the strongest Westerns to be made in recent years. It doesn’t break the mold but certainly refines it for new audiences. Director Jon Cassar’s straightforward film includes a superb cast and tight scripting. There is a deep emotional resonance to its plot as Donald Sutherland shines as the elderly Reverend Clayton. The pious preacher is estranged from his son, John Henry Clayton, a legendary gunfighter that has returned home after a decade away. Donald’s own son, Kiefer Sutherland, plays the Reverend’s estranged son, putting the father and son actors together for the first time on film. Demi Moore makes one of her first notable acting appearances in years, alongside other superb character actors like Brian Cox and Michael Wincott.

I’m not saying it will be his last role but Forsaken would make a nice capper to Donald Sutherland’s long career in movies. The father and son actors play off each other nicely, adding an emotional component to Forsaken that may not have been there if they were two unrelated. Forsaken explores the dynamics of a strained and testy father-son relationship well within the confines of its Western genre. Avoiding the trap of trying to re-invent the Western, the narrative celebrates the genre’s strengths without using its tropes as a crutch.

Soon after John Henry Clayton returns home, trouble begins to brew in the nearby town with its surrounding ranchers. James McCurdy (Brian Cox) is an evil businessman pushing local ranchers off their land by force, using any means necessary. That includes a vicious criminal gang willing to kill when the ranchers don’t deed over their properties. A railroad will soon come through the town and McCurdy hopes to profit from the ranchers’ land.

Working for McCurdy is a smooth hired gun named Gentleman Dave Turner (Michael Wincott). Turner knows John Henry’s Clayton’s reputation as a gunslinger. It seems inevitable their two guns will clash in the end.

Recalling Val Kilmer’s inspired turn as Doc Holliday in Tombstone, Wincott almost steals the movie with his politely measured gunslinger.

Kiefer Sutherland is excellent as a tarnished killer looking to make amends with his father. John Henry Clayton’s remorse for his past sins is repeatedly tested as McCurdy’s gang continues to push other locals off their land. John Henry Clayton stays out of their path as long as possible, only to be drawn in when they force his hand. It soon becomes kill or be killed. Clayton will have to pull out his retired guns if he will get a measure of retribution for the town and the people he loves.

Demi Moore plays John Henry Clayton’s sweetheart Mary Alice from his youth, before he ran off to fight in the Civil War. Mary Alice is now married to another man, complicating things for John Henry. It is an understated role maturely handled by the one-time Hollywood star.

Many fans will fall in love with Michael Wincott’s distinctive turn as Gentleman Dave Turner. Recalling Val Kilmer’s inspired turn as Doc Holliday in Tombstone, Wincott almost steals the movie with his politely measured gunslinger. Turner is the necessary antagonist to John Henry, as the other hired guns seem like mere cannon fodder. Gentleman Dave Turner is the serious threat held in reserve by McCurdy to block Clayton’s goals of saving the town.

Few Westerns are made these days but Forsaken stands with the best of them. This is a movie for classic Western fans that grew up on them and love the genre’s intrinsic moral code.

Movie ★★★★★

Forsaken Blu-ray screen shot 4

This new Western starring Donald and Kiefer Sutherland together contains nice scenery in attractive picture quality. Shot on location in Alberta, Canada with excellent production values and careful cinematography, this is consistently sharp, detailed video. The digital cinematography takes full advantage of the movie’s scope aspect ratio with panoramic vistas and lush visuals. The palette does seem slightly over tweaked for a Western, taking a more modern tact. The digital color timing favors a teal-and-orange push to its saturation levels.

Momentum Pictures has distributed Forsaken through Entertainment One on Blu-ray. The 89-minute main feature is encoded in a transparent AVC video encode without artifacts. Released on a BD-25, the transfer taken from the movie’s digital intermediate is largely pristine and razor-sharp in quality. It’s a technically sound presentation that is unfiltered.

The decently crisp black levels are never seriously tested or pushed. Close-ups reveal a high degree of fine detail in facial textures and other important markers. Its depth and dimension add excellent pop to the foreground.

The scenic locale adds a great deal to Forsaken’s inherent appeal and it looks fantastic. Forsaken is one of those movies best seen in the kind of 1080P resolution available on Blu-ray.

Video ★★★★★

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack immerses the listener in the Old West. This is a nuanced surround mix with excellent low-end extension and immaculate detail. Gunfire and shootouts are but some of its highlights, sprinkled between the quieter moments driven by perfectly recorded dialogue.

Everything hangs in perfect balance, from the traditional score to the more active sound design elements. There isn’t enough action in Forsaken to call this a reference soundtrack but the subtle, well-designed mix adds the necessary finishing touch needed to make this an excellent choice.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font. They display on the border of the 2.40:1 aspect ratio’s black bars, partially in the movie’s image.

Audio ★★★★☆

A handful of trailers precede the main menu, all skippable. The making-of featurette is actually worth a look, which is often not the case. A commentary by Kiefer and Donald Sutherland would have made this perfect.

The Making of Forsaken (11:32 in HD) – This featurette is more involving than most EPK-type special features. Most of the cast and significant crew appear in it, but both Donald and Kiefer Sutherland look happy sharing their thoughts on working together. From the director to other cast members, you can tell by their answers that everyone knew they were working on a very good movie. Some material from behind the scenes and footage from the set are included.

Diablo Trailer (01:51 in HD)

Bleeding Heart Trailer (01:47 in HD)

The Wannabe Trailer (01:59 in HD)

Extras ★★☆☆☆

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. The images have not been altered in any way during the process.