Projections - Movie Reviews

The Woodsman
The Woodsman
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Benjamin Bratt, David Alan Grier, and Kyra Sedgwick

Kevin Bacon delivers the kind of subtly, edgy performance in The Woodsman as a recovering pedophile that makes one understand what it’s like after 12 years in prison for the molestation of pre-teen girls. A delicate precision is at work here in a risk taking role that is comparable to what Charlize Theron brought to death-row serial killer Aileen Wurnos without the amazing physical transformation.

Walter (Bacon of Mystic River) provides the viewer perspective of trying to get over something quite troubling. Director Nicole Kassell, a recent NYU film school graduate and a co-scenarist, has Walter, a skilled carpenter, getting a job in a lumberyard and living an introverted existence in a Philadelphia neighborhood.

But, there is curiosity of course, as his family and friends have excluded him from their lives, except for a brother-in-law, smugly acted by Benjamin Bratt. David Alan Grier (Baadassss!) is more somber as Walter’s sympathetic boss, rap star actress Eve (Barbershop 2) is the investigative company secretary, and Mos Def (Monster’s Ball) is quite good as the angry, skeptical police sergeant waiting for him to lose his place.

A contrivance from Kassell’s debut which utilizes some hard held photography may lie in having Walter only able to find residence across the street from a school with a playground. But, it offers Bacon to endow an insular life with understated, desperate energy as his yearning reminds one of similar repression in The Elephant Man. He’ll gradually become intimate with a fork-lift operator at work, Vicki, played with vulnerability by Bacon’s real-life wife Kyra Sedgwick (Secondhand Lions).

Walter is portrayed in Kassell’s unsentimental, effective approach in a way that feels like a psychological thriller with a hard edged realism towards what indignation keeps someone from being vindicated. He’ll be on to a man overly fixated on young boys, and will have to deal with temptations for girls, as initially seen in a shopping mall.

The Woodsman becomes disconcertingly tender in a contemporary “Little Red Riding Hood” manner. Walter will follow the 12 year old Robin, a doleful Hannah Pikes, after he gets off a bus, and the high point occurs when he meets up with her on a park bench. She is living with her own deep seeded anguish.

A never better Bacon gets across so much in this uneasy eavesdropping, an artistic cinematic guilt trip for some, that glances, journal recordings, and conversations are a series of quiet revelations that may not always be haunting and disturbing. There can be compassion or mistrust in ways that underline the complexities of people around a tormented individual. A space, sensitive handling of something difficult is in ways that can catch one off guard without grandstanding or being manipulative.

The Woodsman

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