|A heavy-handed film about redemption|
It's good to see Kevin Bacon in a role where he really gets to act. Sometimes you forget that he is a very talented actor *cough* Hollow Man *cough* and it's important to be reminded every once in a while. The Woodsman ends up being a quality movie dealing with some very volatile subject matter with surprisingly little resolution.
As usual, if you wish to go into this movie with no pre-existing knowledge about the plot (which I recommend for most movies) then skip this paragraph. Kevin Bacon is a prior sex offender named Walter. He went to jail for 12 years for molesting young girls. The movie starts with him getting out of jail and attempting to rebuild his life. From finding a job, working things out with estranged family members, and building new relationships to answering the question can someone really change this movie tackles a lot of issues.
The question that's hanging in the air throughout the majority of the movie is simply is the protagonist a good guy or is he a bad guy? Can people truly change for the better, or are we doomed to forever repeat our mistakes? I think it's this tension that helps make this movie so intriguing. You're creeped out during the entire thing because you want to like Walter, but you aren't sure if you should or not.
Another issue which is skirted in the movie (and goes into my lack of resolution problem) is the public lists of sex offenders issue. Both sides of it are presented in the film (personal privacy vs. people having a right to know), but no one side is truly shown as being morally correct. Which I suppose is good for such a large issue.
What keeps this movie so tense and charged is the quality acting. All of the lead actors do a great job, which is important when tackling heavier stuff. Aside from Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and Mos Def both deserve recognition for their great jobs. My biggest problem with the film, however, is how heavy-handed it can be.
What's especially odd is that each time the characters say something that is obviously a double meaning you aren't sure if the character means the second meaning, or if that is simply written to make the point of the movie. If it's the former then I'd feel much better, as the character would have to be heavy handed to get their point across. If it's the latter then it's too much on the writer/director side. I dislike it when filmmakers underestimate my intelligence.
As a film it's rather short, which doesn't bother me that much. What does bother me is the fact that it could be longer and wouldn't suffer - yet it isn't. The movie ends at the point when things are just starting to turn around for Walter, but doesn't actually do anything with it. It leaves all of the resolution up to the imagination of the viewer, but I wouldn't mind seeing a few of the hanging character problems resolved for me.
The Woodsman is a well-made and enjoyable movie. It can get a little creepy at parts, and heavy-handed at others, but for the most part it's definitely worth viewing. The true moral of the movie, though, is one which is important for everyone: If a strange man asks you to sit in his lap you probably shouldn't stick around.
Written by Hyperion, 2006-04-14 22:27:52
IMDb page: The Woodsman (2004)