The Forger is, as they say, in select theaters and on VOD beginning today. It’s a variation on a story we’ve seen before – an ex-con is manipulated into doing one more job.
In this case, the ex-con is an art forger and the manipulation is the favor he owes the man who gets him out of prison early so he can spend time with his dying son.
When Ray Cutter (John Travolta) learns his appeal for early release on compassionate grounds – his son is dying – has been turned down, he has his lawyer ‘call Keegan.’ We cut to Ray leaving prison and being driven home by his brother, Carl (Marcus Thomas).
After a less than cordial welcome home by his father, Joe (Christopher Plummer), Ray looks in on his son, Will (Tye Sheridan), before seeing Keegan (Anson Mount) to learn what he has to do to repay him. The favor (requirement) is for Ray to forge a copy of Monet’s Woman With Umbrella to replace the real thing, which will be shown in a local museum in a few weeks.
Ray enlists Joe and Carl to help him.
When he promises Will three wishes, Will wants to meet his mother, get laid, and help Ray with his heist.
The strength of any good heist movie is in making the preparation interesting and then seeing unexpected obstacles arise that must be overcome in a small window of time.
The Forger’s two biggest problems are that half the movie is Ray dealing with the forgery and a very small amount of time (next to none, in fact) in planning and executing the heist.
Another problem is that Ray, the art forger, is also a bit of an action hero – laying waste to anyone who gets in his way as he tries to locate his ex-wife so Will can see her. Part of the problem with this is that Travolta only seems to come alive in the action sequences (or at least the parts where his face is clearly on camera). The rest of the time he seems to be sleepwalking.
The main points of interest are the performances by Plummer and Sheridan. Plummer’s Joe is a cynical old cuss who cares deeply for his grandson and isn’t thrilled that Ray has resorted to Keegan’s help to get out of prison. Sheridan is particularly soulful as the kid dying of cancer but trying, manfully, to not let that stop him from getting the thing he really wants – which is for Ray to tell him he loves him.
Richard D’Ovidio’s (The Damned) script feels more like a second or third draft than a finished product – there’s a lot of stuff happening and none of is more than sketched in. Philip Martin (Wallander) tries to keep things moving but doesn’t always succeed – the day with Ray, Will and Kim (Jennifer Ehle) deserves more depth than it gets; the action sequences feel more like an obligation than an organic part of the story.
Then there’s the cop, Agent Paisley (Abigail Spencer, Rectify), who sees Ray when he first visits Keegan and avoids arresting him for parole violations in hopes of nailing Keegan. Spencer makes her feel at least two-dimensional, which is one more dimension than appears to have been on the page. Her partner (Travis Aaron Wade) doesn’t even get that much to work with.
Still, despite its sketchiness, The Forger is enjoyable if you your brain on pause and let the performances Plummer and Sheridan (and Spencer) unfold. They give The Forger what substance it has. It still feels like a forgery of a better movie.
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