What do you get when you combine creepy border towns, Mexican religious cults, and that Aussie guy from The Mentalist? You get Not Forgotten, a stylish and atmospheric horror/thriller that, while moderately entertaining, is tripped up by its own ambitions.
Simon Baker stars as Jack Bishop, real estate agent, girls soccer coach, budding local politician, and all-around nice guy who lives in the Tex-Mex border town of Del Rio with his daughter, Toby (Chloe Moretz), and his new Mexican wife, Amaya (Paz Vega). While Jack’s political aspirations have been eating up his time, his pre-teen daughter’s dealing with some issues of her own, most problematically, that of her budding womanhood. Like all kids, Toby’s starting to act out, losing interest in things she once loved (like her Dad’s soccer team), and obsessing on things beyond her control. Lately, she’s also been thinking a lot about her mother, Katie (Claire Forlani), who was brutally murdered years earlier. Her father doesn’t like to talk about it, and she’s starting to resent him for it.
When Amaya is cleaning Toby’s bedroom, she discovers blood on the girl’s sheets. Knowing what this means, Amaya has a long talk with Toby and congratulates her on becoming a woman. Jack, of course, is oblivious, and, when he catches Toby putting on make-up on their way to school, he gives her a stern lecture, resulting in Toby bolting from the car in anger. He doesn’t think much of it until later, when Toby doesn’t show up for soccer practice. At first, Jack just thinks she’s mad at him and punishing him for the events of that morning, but, after hours pass and a search yields some of Toby’s things scattered along a river basin just this side of the Mexican border, it becomes clear that Toby has been taken.
Amaya enlists the aid of her cousin, Casper (Michael DeLorenzo), a local cop who is currently standing in for the vacation sheriff. Casper puts together a search team, calls in the F.B.I., and begins to put together a list of suspects. Amaya, meanwhile, attempts to solve things the old fashioned way, using her faith in the pseudo Catholic rituals of the Santa Muerte cult. Jack is appalled by Amaya’s behavior, and chastises her for bringing the religion into his home, but, as the situation grows more desperate, Jack slowly warms to Amaya’s help, despite being a skeptic.
Or is he?
It seems that Jack Bishop isn’t quite what he seems, and, as the search for his daughter leads to new and gruesome discoveries, the truth about Jack Bishop and his mysterious past comes to light.
Not Forgotten is a stylish, dark, and fairly suspenseful thriller that weaves elements of the supernatural through an absorbing mystery, but takes so many detours en route to its anti-climactic denouement that, at times, I felt as lost as the conflicted Jack. This is a movie that is hinged on deception, betrayal, and Hitchcockian MacGuffins, and, almost by necessity, things get rather convoluted by the time the third act rolls around. Sadly, by that point, it’s also fairly obvious where this is all going, rendering the bulk of said diversions and revelations moot, serving only to bog down an already slowly paced film. Still, Dror Soref’s stylized direction and Steven Bernstein’s lush cinematography held my attention, as did the strong performances by Baker, the gorgeous Vega, and the charming young Moretz. It was also a kick to see New York Undercover’s DeLorenzo again, as he was an actor I always enjoyed, and he does a solid job here as the put-upon substitute sheriff who knows more than he’s letting on.
Anchor Bay/Starz! releases Not Forgotten on DVD with a 2.35:1 transfer that boasts a strong color palette and rich, velvety blacks. The film alternates between the desaturated look of Del Rio and the golden hues and neons of the downtown Mexico streets, and the DVD handles each wonderfully. The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is solid, with deep, rumbling bass, and perfectly articulated dialogue. This is a fairly quiet film, but, when the action calls for it, the mix is more than up to task. Extras include an audio commentary with co-writer/producer/director Dror Soref and co-writer / associate producer Tomás Romero, as well as a fairly in-depth featurette, Not Forgotten: Behind the Scenes, and the film’s theatrical trailer as well as trailers for other Anchor Bay/Starz! releases.
Not Forgotten isn't for those who lack patience, as it’s a very deliberately paced, methodically plotted thriller that relies on implication and atmosphere nearly as much as it does plot and dialogue. There's a lot of quiet symbolism, moments of introspection, cameras lingering on objects and places, and other visual means of furthering the plot and hinting at the revelations in store. While said mystery gives itself away a bit early on, it's still worth seeing it through, as Soref, Baker, and Vega do a solid job selling it to the viewers, and keeping us invested in its outcome.