Review: The Forger

The Forger
5 10
This review was originally featured in our TIFF 2014 coverage

PLOT: An imprisoned art forger (John Travolta)makes a deal with a crime boss for a big job in order to get early parole so he can spend time with his terminally ill son (Tye Sheridan). In order to pull off the heist, he’ll need the help of his estranged, ex-con dad (Christopher Plummer).

REVIEW: THE FORGER is yet another movie that might have seemed fine if it played outside the Toronto International Film Festival. As a VOD release, it would seem like a passable time-filler, but stacked up against the truly exceptional movies featured in the lineup, it feels hopelessly outclassed and little more than a watchable b-movie despite the cast and a solid premise.

Art forgery is something we rarely get a glimpse at in our heist movies, but considering the insane talent it would take to be a forger, a character study about someone in this line of work would no doubt be fascinating. While THE FORGER is more-or-less a DTV style thriller, with a dull pace, and mostly uninspired direction, there are points where the film is almost intriguing. For one thing, John Travolta actually did spend time researching art forgers, and does much of his own painting, making for some interesting bits of business when we see him delve into the mindset of Monet (who he’s ripping off) to try and feel what he was feeling as he created the painting. Even niftier is a scene where Travolta has to track down a painting from the same era in order to strip the canvas and use it for his own print so that it’ll be up to snuff.

If anything else, other than the occasional stab at realism, helps THE FORGER it’s the central performers – Travolta, Christopher Plummer, and Tye Sheridan. The film is at its best when it examines the relationship between these three very different men, with Plummer in particular hitting some truly graceful notes as the tough-guy patriarch, who nonetheless is moved by the fact that his son – as played by Travolta – is a far better father than he ever was. You really do feel like these three guys love each other, and Travolta, while he does sport a truly ridiculous soul patch (the distributor should use CGI to get rid of it as it’s so distracting), is always convincing when playing a devoted dad.

The subplot with Sheridan being terminally ill could have felt gimmicky, but to everyone’s credit, there’s no miracle cure just around the corner for him, with it made clear from the get-go that he’s going to die no matter what. It gives the film a touch of melancholy, and Sheridan, who’s proven himself as one of the best young actors of his generation with MUD and JOE, is terrific. He plays the character as resigned to his fate, and just wanting to taste life before his inevitable death. There’s a really great scene where Sheridan’s character has a nightmare about dying and Travolta comforts him, as Plummer looks on with tears in his eyes. It’s scenes like this that almost make THE FORGER worth watching.

I say almost because everything outside the family relationship and the scenes where Travolta is painting are disastrous. Jennifer Ehle – normally an amazing actress – makes for the most unconvincing drug addict in history as Travolta’s estranged wife, while RECTIFY’s Abigail Spencer is wasted in the thinly written cop role. The heist part is likewise – quite boring. The climax is utterly free of any suspense, and the scenes where Travolta is called upon to act tough by roughing up a couple of bad guys, really aren’t convincing, and feel tacked on.

Again, watched outside of TIFF, THE FORGER might have come across as a totally passable time-filler, but it’s a Netflix watch at best. Travolta could still make a big comeback, but he needs something a little meatier than this instantly forgettable heist thriller without any thrills.

Source: JoBlo.com

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