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January 2005

By Wilson Morales
The Woodsman

Distributor: Newmarket Films
Director: Nicole Kassell
Producer: Lee Daniels
Executive Producers: Kevin Bacon, Damon Dash, Brook Lenfast, and Dawn Lenfast
Co-Executive Producer: Marvet Britto
Screenwriters: Steven Fechter and Nicole Kassell, based on the play by Steven Fecther
Cinematographer: Xavier Perez Grobet
Composer: Nathan Larson
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt, Eve, David Alan Grier, and Mos Def, and Carlos Leon
Screened at Loews Lincoln Square, NYC




Kevin Bacon, for the most part, has played just about every role an actor can play. From a dancer in Footloose, a criminal in Criminal Law, an astronaut in Apollo 13, and even a cop in Mystic River, Bacon has excelled in the roles he has chosen. In what is believed his career defining moment, Bacon is just absolutely amazing a role that many wouldn't have taken. In "The Woodsman", Bacon plays a pedophile fighting his own demons to live a normal life. In most cases, a film with this subject matter wouldn't be greenlit because after all, when do you start rooting for a pedophile on screen when you don't in real life. Thanks to good screenplay and a tight direction and superb performances from the cast, The Woodsman is a bold and nerve racking film that will leave you haunted at the end.

Walter (Bacon) has been parole after serving 12 years. He is a convicted sex offender. With little money to spare and having to register as a pedophile, the only place where his money is good happens to be across the street from an elementary school. Taking a job at a lumberyard where Bob (Grier) is his boss, Walter keeps to himself. His quietness captures the attention of Mary-Kay, the receptionist, who wants to know what Walter's crime was. His brother-in-law Carlos (Bratt) still treats him like family, much to the chagrin of his sister, who won't even see. Walter is also befriended at work by Vicki (Sedgwick), who won't judge him as has her demons to deal with. An affair develops between the two but the prospects of starting a new life is compounded by his inner demons constantly coming back as he watches a little girl from his window. Further visits by his parole officer, Sgt. Lucas, (Mos Def) don't help much when Lucas keeps mentioning how pedophiles tend to repeat the same mistakes once released. Living a normal life isn't easy when certain obstacles are harder to conquer, and that the problem that Walter is facing.

As mentioned earlier, rooting for a pedophile is very much a controversial subject. In the real world, this is a difficult task as some crimes are never forgiven, and to ask the audience to take another look is a bold move on the filmmakers and distributor. Director Kassell, in her debut film, does an admirable job in presenting the situation as is. She doesn't try to manipulate the audience by making Walter a do-gooder. She presents his flaws and his quest for redemption. Bacon is the highlight of the film. He embodies the role of a weak man and relishes it. The walk, the talk, and the mannerisms that the character takes is what Bacon brings to the table. There's a crucial scene towards the end that will affect all as it unfolds. Mos Def and Eve add some flair to the picture but they don't add much to the film. The heart of the film is the subject matter. Can we look at this film and ask ourselves if a convicted pedophile now released ever be trusted again? The answer lies within each individual but The Woodsman presents a strong argument for many debates.