The Woodsman (2004)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 63%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,485
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After twelve years in prison, Walter arrives in an unnamed city, moves into a small apartment across the street from an elementary school, gets a job at a lumberyard, and mostly keeps to himself. A quiet, guarded man, Walter finds unexpected solace from Vickie, a tough-talking woman who promises not to judge him for his history. But Walter cannot escape his past. A convicted sex offender, Walter is warily eyed by his brother-in-law, shunned by his sister, lives in fear of being discovered at work, and is hounded by a suspicious local police officer, Detective Lucas. After befriending a young girl in a neighborhood park, Walter must also grapple with the terrible prospect of his own reawakened demons. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: April 14, 2005
Walter (Kevin Bacon) has just been let out of prison after serving twelve years for molesting a number of young girls. As a part of his parole, he's not allowed within three-hundred feet of any children. However, the apartment that his brother Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) sets him up with just within the allowed range of a K-6 school, which soon starts to bring up the sort of thoughts that landed him in prison in the first place. He also gets a job at the local wood-mill, where he meets Vickie (Bacon's real-life wife Kyra Sedgwick), and the two quickly start to build a relationship. With a lady in his life, things finally start to look up for Walter... that is, however, until wood-mill secretary Mary-Kay (Eve) finds out about his secret and passes around copies of his sexual offender list to the employees. If that wasn't bad enough, Walter also has to deal with accusing detective Lucas (Mos Def), a man who suspects that the recent string of child molestation in the area has to do with Walter moving into the neighborhood. Walter isn't the one responsible, but he knows who is... a man who he calls Candy (Kevin Rice) has been luring children to his car using candy, hence the naming. However, Walter doesn't come forward with this information... after all, who would believe this sort of thing coming from a man who spent twelve years in jail for child molestation himself?

While there is a number of subplots here, such as Walter's relationship with Vickie and how she handles his past, as well as the obvious Candy bit, the main focus of the movie is how Walter deals with his urges to mess with children. The movie does not make him out to be "the good guy" or an innocent man... instead, it simply shows him as someone with problems that is trying to change, a move that I found to be particularly refreshing in this age of cinema where every movie has to have a hero. Another big piece of the movie showed how the attitudes and actions of those around Walter unintentionally push him back into the very thing that they despise him for. This realistic, anti-hero approach made the movie work out much better than I would have expected.

However, this film is not quite as good as it's made out to be. The DVD cover quotes Time Magazine as labeling this movie "one of the year's ten best", which couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, it's a good film, but certainly not that good. The main (and really, the only) problem here was the pacing and direction of some of the scenes. Some of the scenes featured here move at an extremely slow pace, resulting in the build-up of the previous scenes to be flushed away. Now, when I mention the slow pacing here, I'd like to point out that I wasn't exactly expecting car-chases, explosions, or something of that nature... instead, it would have been nice if each scene actually built up a part of the storyline or a subplot. The scenes that I referred to above do neither of these, as they instead focus on the job that Walter works at (as a woodsman, hence the title) or his conversations with his therapist. The scenes with the therapist weren't all bad, as some of them moved the movie along extremely well... however, there were just a few too many visits to the therapist here, in my humble opinion. This pacing problem doesn't show up too terribly much, but when it does, you'll be sure to notice it. The other part of this pacing bit that bugged me was the fact that the slow, uneventful scenes were included here while other scenes that really added to the storyline were shortened or cut out of the film entirely. They're available in the special features section of the DVD, but it boggles my mind why the climax of the film was shortened and had important pieces removed from the conversation while other scenes which clearly added nothing to the overall story survived the cut treatment.

The performances given by our characters really made the movie turn out nicer than it could have. Kevin Bacon is excellent in the lead role, giving a truly accurate and realistic performance. Based on his acting performance alone, this is easily the best movie that he has been involved with, as he definitely stepped up the quality a few notches here. Kyra Sedgwick also does a fantastic job as his girlfriend, though I felt that she was a bit underused in the storyline after all was said and done. Sure, she's one of the main characters here, but other than a sex scene, a few conversations, and the grand finale, she's absent from a good chunk of the movie. Rapper Mos Def as the detective was another performance that shocked me... even though he only receives three scenes in the movie, each of these just added to the overall quality of the film. I wouldn't have expected such a good performance to come from a rapper (or any musician for that matter), but he came off looking like a seasoned movie veteran here.

Overall, this one is worth a viewing if you're a fan of drama films, but don't go in expecting "one of the year's ten best" or other such overblown nonsense. 7/10.
bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 10/14/2005, 06:52 PM
This was a fine film and truly one of Kevin Bacon's best performances. I was amazed at how I did not loathe Bacon's character -- he had such depth and turmoil. This film reminded me a lot of the incident with Victor Salva and the way he is treated in the business today. 8/10.
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