Movie review

In ‘The Forger,’ Travolta makes crime into an art


Raymond Cutter (John Travolta) is an art forger. In just 10 months, he’ll be released from prison. But he has to get out now — being the father of a teenager can have that effect — so he cuts a deal with a truly nasty piece of work named Keegan (Anson Mount).

Cutter has to forge a Monet currently hanging in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. That’s hard. The forgery has to be good enough that Cutter can sub it for the original. That’s harder. Hardest of all? He has to steal the real one, without anyone noticing, so Keegan can sell it to a Latin American drug kingpin with a taste for Impressionist painting.


So far, so implausible. Travolta sports a weird little chin patch. At least it doesn’t cover that dimple. Christopher Plummer, as Cutter’s crankily crooked dad, has a grand old time. He goes way beyond ham, to corned beef and cabbage. Tye Sheridan, as Cutter’s son, holds up his sulky end. Abigail Spencer boasts the best cheekbones of any onscreen law-enforcement official this side of Sonja Sohn, back on “The Wire.” They’re accentuated by the tightly pulled-down cap she constantly wears, which emphasizes how tense she looks. You’d think Raymond would be the one on edge.

“The Forger” wants to be many things: gritty crime thriller, heist picture, domestic drama. Family bonds get “forged,” too, right? Director Philip Martin, who’s mainly done British TV work, is best known for “Prime Suspect 7.” Martin keeps things moving a little too briskly, perhaps. Scenes generally feel underdeveloped, and transitions abrupt. A suspicion grows that this is one movie that would have fared better as miniseries. Richard D’Ovidio’s script has a lot of things going on, and they could have benefited from some room to breathe.

“The Forger” is one other kind of movie: a travelogue. MFA sequences were filmed at, yes, the MFA. An establishing shot of the Tobin Bridge indicates that the Cutter manse (thankfully, not a triple-decker) is in Chelsea or Charlestown. The drug kingpin stays at the Copley Plaza. There are glimpses of Storrow Drive, Logan Airport, Boston Common, the Public Garden. The Cutters drink Narragansett. And you won’t find this many Sox caps being worn in the Fenway bleachers.


Oh, and the accent. Always, there’s the accent. Let’s just say its usage . . . fluctuates. A pal of Raymond’s mentions “alarms” and “Chahles” (as in “banks of”) within the same breath. Fortunately, local hero Steve Sweeney is on hand for an all-too-brief turn as a fence. How brief? He’s not even credited on IMDb. At least he’s onscreen long enough to remind us what real Boston accents sound like. Plummer may serve up a plateful of corned beef and cabbage. Sweeney, bless him, knows how to talk with a mouthful of it.

Mark Feeney can be reached at