A difficult and powerful drama, Nicole Kassell makes a strong feature directing debut with "The Woodsman", which stars Kevin Bacon as Walter, an ex-convict who has recently returned to daily life. He finds himself in a new place, with a new job and a new life. His family, aside from a brother (Benjamin Bratt) doesn't speak to him, and he keeps to himself at work.
The only one who gets to him at his job is Vicki (Bacon's real-life wife, Kyra Sedgewick), and before long, the two start up something of a relationship. She attempts to get him to reveal what got him locked up in the past, but she doesn't get far, at first. Eventually, as their relationship furthers, he opens up to her: he was convicted of being a pedophile.
The movie doesn't ask us to sympathize with the character, but also doesn't offer an opinion of his horrible past, either. The movie simply is a character study, as it watches Walter attempt to restart his life outside bars. He may get in trouble again, but he may also help, as he spots what he believes is another pedophile looking for prey at the schoolyard across the street. That's generally the one thing I didn't believe about the picture - despite the fact that Walter did not choose where to live, I didn't believe that he'd be allowed to live next to a schoolyard. Soon enough, Walter's secret gets out and people in his daily life find out. There's also visits from a detective (Mos Def) and Walter befriends a girl at the nearby school, who he realizes is being abused by her father.
Bacon's performance as a man attempting to escape his demons is one of the actor's best. It's a subtle, superb performance that has the actor convincingly playing a quiet man having a loud internal struggle with his problems and his past. Sedgewick is also very good as the tough woman that accepts Walter. Supporting performances, such as from Mos Def and David Alan Grier, are also fine. Nicole Kassell's directorial debut, despite operating on a low budget, is technically quite good, as the film's gritty cinematography is suitably crisp and chilly.
"The Woodsman" certainly isn't an easy film to sit through with its disturbing subject matter, but Bacon's performance is quite strong.
VIDEO: "Woodsman" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image quality in this presentation was generally satisfactory, although some fairly noteworthy concerns came up at times. Sharpness and detail were usually fine, but the picture never appeared exceptionally well-defined, and a few moments could look a tad soft.
Problems included some noticable and occasionally, mildly distracting edge enhancement. Surprisingly, given how new a movie this is, some minor print flaws were also very apparent in several scenes. No pixelation was spotted. The film's very subdued color palette was presented accurately, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: "Woodsman" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The film's sound mix is extremely subtle, and the Dolby Digital and DTS options are essentially the same. The majority of the film's audio is front-heavy, with only light ambience in the surrounds on brief occasions. Audio quality was fine, with dialogue that sounded crisp and clear.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director Nicole Kassell, deleted and extended scenes, "Getting It Made" featurette and trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "The Woodsman" is a difficult film about a man with a terrible past attempting to battle his terrible past and his own demons. It's worth a rental for those interested. The DVD provides adequate image quality, fine audio and a few good, insightful supplements.
The Film ***