Edinburgh International Film Festival

Forsaken (2015)

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, Demi Moore, Brian Cox, Michael Wincott, Aaron Poole, Greg Ellis

Directed by: Jon Cassar

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Ah, remember Young Guns? Kiefer Sutherland, Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, the boys of the Brat Pack saddling up and riding off into the sunset, devils on the run, six gun lovers, mullets gently caressed by the breeze? But what if, thirty years later, these no-longer-so young bucks want to hang up their guns, go back to the homestead and make amends for their reckless, bloody lives?

What happens is Forsaken.

Donald Sutherland in Forsaken

And when John Henry Clayton (Kiefer Sutherland) pitches up to the family farm after ten years at war and on the road, his father (Donald Sutherland, obvs) is none too happy to see him. A devout peacenik preacher, his infamous gunslinger son is an embarrassment, not a hero. But then again, the small town of Fowle ris in dire need of both, slowly strangling in the tyrannical grip of ruthless landowner McCurdy (Brian Cox), his suave gun for hire, Gentleman Dave (Michael Wincott – who else?) and band of bullying thugs. Should John Henry stick to his new principals and turn the other cheek? Or strap on his trusty Colt once more for an all-barrels-blazing showdown?

Oh come on, what do you think?

Kiefer Sutherland as John Henry Clayton in Forsaken

Yes, there are very few cliched dead man's hands left unplayed in this delightfully old school, nostalgic Western: from swinging saloon doors to spitting into sawdust, portly, bespectacled storekeepers to the Girl our hero left behind (played by fellow ex-Brat Packer Demi Moore) it's all there – although certain twists in the plot do serve to undercut the classic Western tropes we expect in in an oddly pleasing, anti-climactic manner.

Like a low budget, '80s throwback version of Unforgiven, Forsaken is a film tinged with melancholy and regret, a Wild West parable that yearns to eschew violence, but understands that sometimes it's a necessary evil. But it's the complex relationship between father and son that really carries the movie, as a tangled web of love, resentment, disappointment and redemption that echoes the Sutherlands' own fractious past, is slowly unravelled, eventually offering a form of hope.

Packed with great performances and filmed against some stunning backdrops (the same scenery, fact fans, that features in everyone's favourite unreconstructed Wild West railroad series Hell on Wheels) Forsaken is well worth a look. Kief and Donald Sutherland, going down in a blaze of glory... Just don't call them Young Guns...

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