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THE WOODSMAN, 2004
Movie Reviews!

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THE WOODSMAN, 2004
Movie Reviews

Directed by Nicole Kassellt
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Mos Def and Benjamin Bratt
Review by Russell Hill



SYNOPSIS:

A convicted chilled molester is released from prison and adjusts to life on the outside.

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REVIEW:

Winner of the “Grand Jury Prize” at the 2004 Sundance festival, “The Woodsman” is certainly not a movie which would have been produced during the Golden Age of Hollywood. With its story about a child molester being released from prison after serving a 12-year sentence, the movie at time can often be testing to the audience as the subject is not exactly going to have masses queuing around the block to see it. This movie could have been made to such a poor standard that it would have been laughed off the silver screen by those who saw it but is to the credit to all involved that this does not happen and in fact a great movie is born out of a subject which all level headed people find despicable.

Walter (Bacon) is a man who has served quite a long stretch in prison. It’s not like it was for stealing some car, but molesting a child. Obtaining a job at a lumber mill, Walter keeps himself to himself and soon meets Vicki (Sedgwick) who takes a shine to him due to his quiet nature as the guys who she works are simply moronic. Keeping his head down at work isn’t just the only thing on his mind, but the continuous visits by a cop called Lucas (Def) who makes sure he’s not getting into any trouble. Lucas despises Walter, and would rather see him fry in the electric chair than live. Walter’s family have all but abandoned him, except his Mexican brother-in-law Carlos (Bratt) who Walter had stuck by when uproar ensued when he wanted to marry Walter’s white sister. If Carlos was entirely honest, I’m sure he would want to see Walter suffer horribly but he feels that he owes him a favour. Over time, Walter and Vicki soon become lovers and it seems like he’s getting his existence back to as normal as possible. However, he always has these “urges” and it takes a lot of effort not to act on them, in particular on a young birdwatcher named Robin. Towards the end of the movie, you find yourself having experienced quite a roller coaster of emotions and wonder if Walter will ever carry out his immoral feelings.

Many have overlooked Bacon for some time now, seeing his talent is expendable. There was a time in which Bacon was typecast and could not get any serious roles. After years of toiling away and showing the world that he is not just a pretty boy who can dance, like in “Footloose”, he has starred in some quite serious movies with this being a fine example. Some argue that the cinematic portrayal of child molesters should not be done, whilst others say they should be played on the silver screen. With Bacon, no matter how many movies you have seen him in whether being gutted by Jason Voorhees in “Friday the 13th” or heroic astronaut Jack Swigert in “Apollo 13”, those previous big-screen appearance are wiped from the memory. His acting is that good you could honestly imagine him as someone who might carry out one of the sickest crimes on the planet and you often find yourself hating Walter. But Walter is not to be hated, but understood. He is not a character to look up to or despise, but pity. Through a way-too-close friendship he forms with the said pre-pubescent birdwatcher, he learns that the children he molested were not enjoying what he did to them but in fact despise every second of what happened. Walter by all means sees the errors of his ways, and it almost hits him like a lightning bolt. For any lesser talented actor who was brave enough to take on a role like this, such a realisation would be difficult to pull off; Bacon does this as though it’s merely the bare minimum of his talents. Somehow I feel this to be true.

But hey, Bacon isn’t the only actor here. Take Kyra Sedgwick for example. It’s not everyday that the role of a woman who falls for a man recently released from prison for molesting children comes along, and boy how she succeeds. Her tough demeanour is penetrated with ease by Sedgwick who pulls off the performance of her career. Likewise can be said with Benjamin Bratt. The only character to actually like Walter whilst it is known he is a paedophile, Carlos feels he owes something to Walter but, at times, he comes across as far too creepy due his obvious feelings towards children. Carlos feels it is his moral obligation to lend a helping hand to Walter, but when he comments about children like that he just wants to floor the guy. One other noticeable actor here is rapper-turned actor Mos Def. An admirer of his other movies such as “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Be Kind Rewind” his role of Sergeant Lucas has to be considered one of his best. Acting as the character that reacts to Walter as many in society might do by giving Walter grief and hassle, Lucas isn’t at all civil to Walter. Constantly questioning him for possible crimes that Walter might be responsible for, Lucas doesn’t like Walter one bit. Their relationship, if you could call it that, is about as cosy and friendly as were the Americans and Soviets during the Cold War. For someone, whose trade is as a rapper, to display such acting skills is highly commendable and certainly worthy.

I admit this movie is not easy viewing. Those who are fans of “Footloose” might want to look away, but if you can avoid the controversial and quite bold subject matter and concentrate on the story and the character development then you are guaranteed of a good but uncomfortable time.

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