Judge Gordon Sullivan often is distracted by raving televangelists.
Memories. Murders. Madness…Payback is hell!
If I taught film production, I'd show Forfeit alongside the likes of Casablanca and The Big Sleep. No, Forfeit isn't a classic like those two films, but it's a perfect example of contrast. Where Casablanca and The Big Sleep are films that are obviously greater than the sum of their parts, Forfeit combines numerous decent parts into an unremarkable whole. Here's how it breaks down:
As a story, Forfeit works pretty well (even if it takes a little too long to get started). The gradual unfolding of Frank's back story is compelling, as is his relationship to his former flame Karen. Although the film is slow in parts, the structure of the film works well. I'm usually annoyed by the Tarantino-inspired independent penchant for gratuitous flashbacks, but Forfeit gets it right, using flashbacks tastefully to build suspense and interest.
Like I said, all the elements are there. Sadly, they just don't add up to a compelling feature. The only reason I can think of for the film's lack of success is that it doesn't seem to know which direction it wants to take. There's the heist angle and the revenge plot, plus the whole televangelist subplot. That's a lot to cover in 84 minutes. If the film had focused on any one of these stories it might have been more effective, but as it is Forfeit seems more like an exercise for the filmmakers than a movie for the viewing public. It could also be that films which feature crazy televangelists are simply doomed to failure. I think Mad Cowgirl is another case in point.
Forfeit has been brought to DVD by MTI, and while the disc was passed over for deluxe treatment, fans will be pleased. The video on this disc is surprisingly good for a low-budget film. The whole image has a washed out quality, showing those 16mm origins, but detail is pretty strong and there are no serious compression problems. The audio is well-mixed, so English subtitles aren't missed too much. Extras include a filmmaker's commentary and a making-of featurette. The commentary features director Andrew Shea and writer/producer John Rafter Lee. The two are obviously friendly, spending most of the track dishing out production info and their thoughts on the story and characters. There's a bit of silence here and there, but it's a strong track for those interested in the film. The making-of featurette runs about 15 minutes, covering the film's production with behind-the-scenes footage. It's not much, but more than many low-budget films get.
Forfeit isn't a horrible movie, but it is guilty of being less than the sum of its parts. I hope that all those responsible get to make more films that will have a tighter focus.
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