2009, R, 96 min. Directed by Dror Soref. Starring Simon Baker, Paz Vega, Chloe Moretz, Claire Forlani, Michael DeLorenzo, Ken Davitian, Gedde Watanabe, Mark Rolston.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 1, 2009
Hail the U.S.-Mexico border film that uses its setting to explore issues other than the porousness of personal and cultural identity. Not Forgotten is a border-town thriller, which premiered at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival and is opening in Austin several weeks in advance of its national release date. With co-star Baker currently in the spotlight due to the success of his TV show The Mentalist, the timing is auspicious for Not Forgotten. Baker is cast as the film’s soccer dad, Jack Bishop, a banker in Del Rio, Texas (although most of the film was shot in New Mexico). His daughter, Toby (Moretz), is on the verge of adolescence, and he’s married to Amaya (Vega), his second wife and Toby’s loving stepmother. They appear to be a perfectly happy and ordinary integrated family, but then Toby (who narrates the story in voiceover) is kidnapped from her soccer practice, and the veneer of the perfect family is scraped raw in the process of solving the kidnapping mystery. Integral to the story is the religious cult of Santa Muerte, a death cult we’re told is popular with drug dealers and prostitutes. Santa Muerte is a real practice, rejected by the Catholic Church but flourishing among criminals and victims of violence and poverty. Also containing themes of vengeance, the faith and its artifacts play a central and colorful role in Not Forgotten. The plot is a tightly wound mystery that gradually reveals itself, saving most of its surprises for third-act revelations. What starts out as an ordinary police investigation into a kidnapping grows ever lurid once a couple of FBI agents (Watanabe and Rolston) enter the scene and Jack goes on a renegade solo mission across the border. Without giving away the film’s plot twists, however, I don’t think Not Forgotten holds up to psychological scrutiny. There are so many hidden agendas at work here that it’s hard to believe these conflicts would not have come into play prior to Toby’s kidnapping. The film moves swiftly and vividly, but in retrospect, numerous plot holes come to mind. Not Forgotten presents a fascinating microcosm but ultimately loses believability when placed in a larger context.