Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt, Mos Def, David Alan Grier, Eve, Hannah Pilkes, Michael Shannon
Written by: Nicole Kassell, Steven Fechter, based on the play by Steven Fechter
Directed by: Nicole Kassell
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, disturbing behavior and language
Running Time: 88
Date: 01/19/2004

The Woodsman (2004)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Comparisons to Mystic River are obvious as Kevin Bacon shifts from the role of a Boston cop entangled in a murder case involving child molesters, to the much deeper role of an actual child molester. Released from prison after twelve years, Walter (Bacon) lands a job in a Philadelphia lumberyard and a shabby apartment across from a schoolyard, and waits through the long, aching hours for his healing to begin. His brother-in-law Carlos (Benjamin Bratt) makes a vague attempt to reach out, but he is reluctant to let Walter meet his 12 year-old niece. Co-worker Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick) becomes friendly with him, and a cop (Mos Def) is personally invested in bringing Walter down. Everyone spends every minute waiting for Walter to slip, none more so than Walter himself. When he gets off his bus and follows a young girl (Hannah Pilkes) into the park, we understand that he can't help himself. Extremely difficult to watch, The Woodsman is one of those movies that will be praised for its courage. Yet the courage of its subject matter and the courage of its artistry don't mesh. Making her feature debut, director and co-writer Nicole Kassell has too soft a touch. Many scenes succeed with their startling hush, but others fall with a thud. Kassell often reaches too far; she hasn't the conviction to allow us to meet her halfway. Regardless, there's no question that Bacon has achieved something truly unique with this performance.

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