The best way I can describe Not Forgotten is as a bad stew: it has all of the ingredients to make a good movie, but for some reason they simply don’t come together.
Jack Bishop (Simon Baker of The Mentalist) appears to have the perfect life: a bright, pretty daughter from a previous marriage; a beautiful wife (Paz Vega of Spanglish); and a prosperous job as a banker in a small South Texas border town. This perfect life shatters with the kidnapping of his daughter, and a secret past that Jack has tried so diligently to erase threatens to erase everything he loves and has worked so hard to create.
Peppered in with this story is a subplot about a Mexican cult called Santa Muerte. The name basically translates as “Holy Death” (although I took it a bit too literally and thought it meant “Saint Death” but it all amounts to the same thing), and I was very surprised to find that it was a real cult. Santa Muerte imagery abounds in the film and the visuals and what I’m assuming to be authentic prayers add a very creepy vibe to the movie.
Adding to the creepiness is the number of disfigured and deformed extras roaming around in the background. According to the commentary, the writers wanted to present the border town as a kind of south Texas Mayberry, and the deformed people serve to show that the small-town perfection on the surface masks some very disturbing secrets. They create a very surreal feel to the movie that for me takes away from the overall effect. Like Santa Muerte, it could have been an effective part of the story, but for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, it doesn’t really mesh with the whole.
It might have helped if I could find some way to emotionally invest myself in the movie, but I found Jack to be a thoroughly bland, unappealing character. I’ve heard good things about Simon Baker and The Mentalist, but this is not a good showcase of his talents. At most he acts mildly perturbed at the abduction of his daughter, and there are moments when he comes off hostile to the police. His attitude makes more sense after more of his past is revealed, but without that knowledge he seems like either a bad father, or a bad actor.
Not Forgotten depends a lot on the revelation at the end, and like everything else in this movie, it just doesn’t work for me. The kidnapping of Jack’s daughter is part of a ridiculously convoluted and circuitous revenge plot that seems far too complicated and relies far too much on chance to ever be successful. If the rest of the movie had been better I could have overlooked that, but it’s just one more ingredient in the stew (to go back to my rather belabored metaphor) that just doesn’t work.
The movie is presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with the audio in Dolby surround 5.1. English subtitles are provided and thank goodness they were because the audio is so wretched that I couldn’t hear the movie. If not for the subtitles I would have never been able to follow the plot. Well, what plot there is, anyway.
Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Producer/Director Dror Soref and Co-Writer/Associate Producer Tomás Romero – For the most part this is pretty standard, but they don’t really talk about Santa Muerte, the only part of the movie I was only remotely interested in.
Not Forgotten: Behind the Scenes (6:20) – I have no idea if Santa Muerte was talked about in this featurette because the audio is so godawful that I couldn’t make out what anybody was saying.
The concept behind Not Forgotten is interesting, but it just didn’t come together. The different aspects of the plot stand alone and don’t create a smooth narrative, and Simon Baker’s performance is wooden and unemotional. It makes me think of one of Peter MacNicol’s lines in Ghostbusters II: “Everything you’re doing is bad. I want you to know this.” Not recommended.
Anchor Bay presents Not Forgotten. Directed by Dror Soref. Starring Simon Baker, Paz Vega, Michael Delorenzo, Chloe Moretz, and Claire Forlani. Written by Tomás Romero and Dror Soref. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: November 3, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Simon Baker, the mentalist