The Unforgiveable is based on a popular British limited series, Unforgiven, that was broadcast during January 2009. Naturally, American filmmakers were willing to make a remake of it, as they always do of any overseas movies or TV shows that are popular, but it sat in development hell for a decade. Reportedly Angelina Jolie was interested with filmmaker Scott Frank working on developing it. But nothing came out of it.
It’s should’ve been left that way.
Sandra Bullock, also a producer, is the main protagonist of a movie that doesn’t know if it wants to be a family drama, gritty thriller or moral story about forgiveness. Before I continue, I’m going to list a lot of spoilers because there’s no way to critique it without letting out a lot of spoilers.
Bullock plays Ruth Slater, who’s released from prison after serving 20 years for the fatal shooting of a Seattle-area sheriff Mac Whelan (W. Earl Brown). She’s been estranged from her younger sister, Katherine Malcolm (Aisling Franciosi) and as she returns to Seattle (Vancouver and British Columbia doubling for a lot of scenery), she wants to reconnect with her daughter who should be 25 or 26 but for some reason is portrayed as a young college-age student being protected by her legal guardian/adoptive parents, Michael and Rachel Malcolm (Richard Thomas and Linda Emond).
At this point, I’m going to point out all the problems with the time frame, because it’s crucial to the plot. Bullock is 57 and still looking good for 57, but she is nowhere near the young 40s that Ruth is. I’m guessing they thought those two decades in the slammer would make her look harder. If so, that’s very awful thinking. But why the hell is Katherine treated like a little wounded child? Why isn’t she out on her own?
She gets injured in a car accident and pretty much vanishes from the movie as she becomes totally irrelevant. This isn’t about her, but about Ruth’s struggle to rebuild her life while working two jobs trying to find her sister. For some pointless reason, Michael and Rachel more or less kidnap Katherine and force her to return home to live with them as she recovers. Remember she’s got to be 25, so really they don’t have any control or say-so. But for some reason, they (and the movie) treat Katherine as she’s still a juvenile and want to keep her away from Ruth. Apparently, this movie acts like someone who was 5 is going to totally forget the older sister who raised them, the years of trauma as they were bounced around foster homes, before finally being adopted by the literal fucking Waltons?
And this brings in Vincent D’Onofrio and Viola Davis in totally What-in-the-blue-fuck-where-they-thinking thankless roles as a married couple who has moved into the country home that Ruth and Katherine lived in. D’Onofrio plays John Ingram, a Seattle-based lawyer, who takes sympathy on her and Davis plays his nagging wife who has no other purpose in the plot to rightfully appear concerned when Ruth shows up out of nowhere to look around the former homestead and get on her husband’s case for helping her. And of course, Liz finally comes around to helping Ruth when she finds out the truth.
Which I am going to spoil right here, so do not read any further to spend two hours watching this movie. It just so happens, that Ruth and Katherine’s mother died during the latter’s childbirth or after and Ruth (even in the flashback scenes portrayed by Bullock still looks too old to be a 20-something) raises Katherine. Their father goes nuts, I’m guessing over the death of his wife, and kills himself. This causes the farmhouse to go in receivership or whatever. The bank shows up and Ruth tells them not to come in or she’ll shoot them. Sheriff Whalen shows up to try to talk sense into Ruth, but when he walks in through a basement door, Katherine, who was only 5 years old, takes a shotgun down to the basement and shoots Whalen.
And Ruth does a lot of dumb things. She scoops Katherine up, takes off in the pick-up truck, goes to a diner to wait while Katherine orders and eats pancakes. But Katherine doesn’t have any idea of what she just did 15 minutes earlier so when the cops show up to arrest Ruth, she takes the fall because as Ruth screams to Liz, “She was only 5 years old!”
Yes, and they could’ve tested Katherine’s hand for gun powder residue. Also, Ruth doesn’t make any attempt to try to save Whalen, but she runs off. Because this whole movie is what late film critic Roger Ebert used to say is part of the Idiot Plot Device. So, Ruth does time for Katherine even though she would’ve probably served less time in a juvenile detention center than Ruth does in prison.
Of course, we don’t see this all at first because then, we’d stop watching. No, this is some awful trope that director Nora Fingscheidt does that’s been done so much it’s becoming pointless. She shows brief moments of flashback throughout the movie as we know good and well Ruth didn’t kill the sheriff. But only an idiot would know that.
Enter two idiot brothers who were Whalen’s sons, Steve (Will Pullen) and Keith (Thomas Guiry). Keith is very angry that Ruth is getting out and even goes to the prison to watch and sneer as she’s let go. Then, he tries to coerce his Steve, who has a family with a wife, Hannah (Jessica McLeod) and an infant. That is until he catches Keith and Hannah doing it. I mean, literally, these three characters have no other purpose in this movie but for us to think Keith is going to be the crazy one to do something stupid. Then no, it’s Steve because Hannah who from the first second is portrayed as the unfaithful slut wife.
This movie could’ve looked at the hardship the brothers have gone through the past 20 years, but it doesn’t. It immediately stereotypes them and their conditions. Their mother is portrayed as weak, frail and on a ventilator. What if one brother forgave Ruth and one didn’t. That would at least help explain the title. But no. We don’t get that. We get the same bleak movie set in the drear Pacific Northwest where people look like they don’t bathe or shower for several days.
Oh, wait, this piece of shit movie gets better. Ruth tries to rekindle her desires by hooking up with a co-worker, Blake (Jon Bernthal in a role where he’s trying to play a good guy but rocking a 1970s pornstauche) at a fish-processing plant. Ruth also works help building a homeless shelter. Apparently she’s a carpenter by trade but takes the fish job when we get the obligatory pointless scene of Ruth being shut down at a carpentry job because she’s a woman and/or convict.
Then, when she tells Blake she’s a convict, he gets nervous, because she thinks he doesn’t want to be with her. But you guessed it, he’s an ex-con too and they can’t even hang out together. This leads to one awful scene that absolutely makes no motherfucking sense when Ruth is jumped at the fish-processing plant and beaten severely by a co-worker whose father was in law enforcement. Now, even in prison, things like these have consequences. But for some reason, all we hear is a supervisor try to settle the co-worker down.
What the fuck?! Is this serious? Ex-con or not, she would’ve been totally in her right calling the police. OSHA would’ve had a few words to say. The company itself would’ve done something for insurance reasons at least. You can’t fight at workplaces. And when she shows up to see her parole officer, Vincent Cross (Rob Morgan) with fresh cuts and bruises, he just passes it off.
This is very insulting as Seattle was one of the major cities to have protests after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. To say that the daughter of a police officer has to right to brutally beat a person just because she was convicted of killing a law officer is so insulting and disgusting, everyone in this movie and especially the scenes should be ashamed of themselves. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
This is another pointless piece of garbage that has been distributed by Netflix, which once released good and decent movies. This movie gets everything wrong and thinks it’s being provocative. It’s obviously an attempt by Bullock to win an Oscar after her last win for The Blind Side has been dragged and criticized for its White Savior theme and inaccuracies. This is more like her crapfest All About Steve. Oh, and just a reminder to all the actresses out there.
I like Bullock. Who doesn’t? Even when she makes bad movies, you feel like it wasn’t her fault. But as producer, she’s got to take more of the blame. She thinks all she can do is scowl and not wear make-up and say “fuck” so much because that usually is what Oscar voters want, right? Women with frazzled hair and “hardened” looks seem to be Oscar gold or so they think.
This movie ends with a foolish kidnapping subplot that comes too late but is so lightly handled that it involves Steve kidnapping Katherine’s adopted sister, which makes sense because Katherine has had so little to do, we can’t tell them apart either.
Netflix reported this was the most streamed movie for a week when it was released in December. My mother used to turn the Weather Channel on when she worked around the house to have some background noise. I feel a lot of people started this movie with high hopes because they saw the cast and then kept it on as they did other things around their houses. Because that’s the type of movie The Unforgiveable is.
What do you think? Please comment.