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Rental Review: Forgiven

September 7, 2009
paul_on_setRussell Hornsby, Paul Fitzgerald and Jamie Doyle star in “Forgiven,” a new drama available for rent through cable on demand.

What it means to be forgiven and the divide between law and truth make up the questions in the film “Forgiven.” Paul Fitzgerald wrote, directs and stars in this drama that premiered at Sundance in 2006 and has now made it to Video on Demand thanks to the folks over at Cinetic.

The film jars expectations at every turn and while at times this can be enlightening, other moments are simply frustrating. Why does the black character, Ronald Bradler, have little voice and why is he just a catalyst for the main white character in a film that seems to be outing the concept of hidden racism?

While we open with the death scene of a convict that we soon backtrack into the moments leading up to his death, the film mostly focusing on what else is happening in the town. Meet Christian Fundamentalist Peter Miles who is moving towards a run for senate but is the current district attorney who prosecuted the Bradler case. Miles finds out at his Senate announcement party that Bradler has been reprieved by the Governor moments from his death.Early on we glean that the film is a cross-examination of not only race relations and the political system but also a question of how politicians use “Jesus” as a campaign tool.

What is fascinating about the film is how we look in, often from a birds eye view, at how a man’s life can be determined by politics. A cop was killed, so any evidence that would help Bradler’s case, is quietly pushed aside. Once revealed, the papers are the catalyst for a major but unrealistic showdown between the two.

But perhaps what is disappointing about the film is that Ronald draws us into the film and we want to hear his voice but it is so often muted until he is given a vicious and uncharacteristic role.

While the D.A. is shocked that the media thinks his conviction of Bradler has anything to do with race, his own assistant urges him to examine his motives and beliefs. Something he seems firmly against doing, refusing to examine whether as a wealthy white man he may be part of a broken system that takes into account socioeconomic status and color of skin before truth and justice. This scene hints at something larger than what we end up getting.

Bradler is stuck on the headlines as Miles keeps his guilt in question as a way to prove that he did not screw up the case in order to help move forward his own senate race. Because of the headlines, Bradler has trouble transitioning back into normal life, from dating to jobs, nothing works out. A visually interesting scene is when Bradler comes to a physical crossroads and chooses to walk down the path away from home, which leads him into poor choices.

The film addresses the hidden racism within the judicial system in a provocative way but also falls into its own trap having zero black men in the film that choose a higher path. We hope for Bradler to find a smarter way to get back at the system, for one I could have seen him running to the media, but instead a bad decision is made that leaves everyone broken. Where the film could have taken a higher ground or dug a little deeper, it instead chooses to leave us without hope for a change.

Check out the trailer below and let me know your thoughts.

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