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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > The Woodsman

MOVIE REVIEWS

THE WOODSMAN (2005)

Starring Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Mos Def, Benjamin Bratt, David Alan Grier, Eve, Kevin Rice, Michael Shannon, Hannah Pilkes, Carlos Leon, Gina Philips, Van Cameron, Paul Majors, Bobby Prochaska, Scott Hatfield, Laura Kirby, David C. Roehm Sr. and David Von Roehm.

Screenplay by Steven Fechter & Nicole Kassell.

Directed by Nicole Kassell.

Distributed by New Market Films.  87 minutes.  Rated R.

 

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The Woodsman

I've felt for a long time that Kevin Bacon was one of the most overlooked actors in the movies.  He is willing to do anything, play any type of character, without concern about his reputation or image.

Well, his work in The Woodsman takes it to an entirely different level.  This is a role that no other actor would be willing to take on because of its controversial subject matter.  However, as always, Bacon submerges himself into the man without judging him.  The fact that he does such a transfixing job of it is even more amazing.

His character of Walter is a pedophile who has just gotten out of jail after spending twelve years behind bars for his actions.  The Woodsman does not try to excuse Walter's crimes, in fact it only tells us in the very broadest strokes what exactly he did.  Even Walter himself recognizes that what he did was shockingly wrong.

Now that he has gotten a second chance, he is trying his hardest to get his life back in order, despite constant roadblocks and temptations.  He lives across the street from a grade school, which I would think would be a violation of his parole, but he says that it was the only landlord that would take his money.  In living so close to a school, Walter quickly picks up on a man (Kevin Rice) who spends just too much time outside the school talking to children and realizes that he is probably also a pedophile.  Walter refers to the man as Candy, because he is always offering little boys a treat.

Walter's family will not talk to him, with the exception of his brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt) who tries to broker a reconciliation with his sister.  However, even the brother-in-law only trusts Walter so far when it comes to their daughter. 

As part of his rehabilitation, Walter must talk to a psychiatrist and a parole officer on a regular basis.  The psychiatrist believes in Walter, however Walter feels his methods are too slow and that he will never be normal.  The parole cop (Mos Def) makes no secret about his disgust towards Walter, daring him to screw up in anyway so that he can get him back into jail.

Walter works at a lumber yard, the same job that he had before he went to jail.  He keeps to himself on the job.  He doesn't like his work but it keeps him busy, until a secretary (played by rapper Eve) who he slighted goes on the internet and finds out about his past.  She spreads the word amongst the co-workers, making the workplace just another hostile environment for him to get through.  

Walter's life starts to take a turn for the better when he meets a tough woman on the job named Vickie (played by Kyra Sedgwick, who is Bacon's wife in real life.)  Vickie is a bruised soul like Walter, as a child she was the victim of incest at the hands of her brothers.  For a long time Walter will not tell Vickie his deep dark secret, and when he does they separate for a while.  However, Vickie can't help but feel there is a basic goodness in Walter that even he does not recognize, so she decides to help him with his rehabilitation.  She does not understand his compulsion, but she loves him and hopes that with her he will be able to get past it.

However it is always a fight for him.  Walter knows what he did was wrong and that he wants to live his life well, but he is always haunted by his memories of his past crimes and a restless but relentless urge deep inside of him.  A couple of scenes where Walter nearly gives in to his urges are spectacularly disturbing, particularly one where he befriends a little girl birdwatcher in a park and you know that is taking every ounce of self-control for him to not touch her.  In fact, only when he realizes that she has been being assaulted by her father and how much it upsets her does he back off completely.

The Woodsman is like one of those character studies from the seventies like Taxi Driver, A Woman Under the Influence or Carnal Knowledge.  It takes an unflinching look at a very imperfect man and tries to give you some kind of understanding of him, no matter whether you can respect him or not. 

The Woodsman gives no easy answers.  Walter's life is a constant struggle against his own urges and we can only hope he will be able to continue to fight off his demons, which is the only way that this material could be played realistically.  This film is not necessarily a fun thing to watch, and it shouldn't be.  It is an attempt to understand something that to most people is unfathomable.  It is trying to shed some light on a part of the human condition that most people would prefer to stay in the shadows. 

Human drama is not always pretty.  The Woodsman tells a compelling story about a man fighting off his most sinister urges.  If he was an alcoholic or a drug addict, no one would think twice about making Walter's story.  Walter's sickness is one that does not get much discussion.  The Woodsman tries to give the audience some empathy about what life is like for a man like him, for better or for worse.  For that alone, it is a fearless and important film.  (1/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2005   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: January 30, 2005.

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Copyright 2005   PopEntertainment.comAll rights reserved.  Posted: January 30, 2005.

 

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