• Nate Adams

'The Unforgivable' review: Sandra Bullock's stagnant drama needs direction


Courtesy of Netflix

What compelled Sandra Bullock, Jon Berenthal, Vincent D’Onofrio and Viola Davis to partake in Nora Fingscheidt’s overstuffed and borderline cartoonish drama “The Unforgivable” is a mystery that lives up to its namesake. A stagey showcase meant to remind audiences Bullock can deliver the waterworks when called upon, “The Unforgivable,” a remake of Sally Wainwright’s popular British mini-series, breaks into what feels like seven different movies. It’s understandable Netflix would take creative liberties with the original property, but never has a movie felt so overwhelmed to where the episodic approach might have done wonders. Instead, it’s a flat, one dimensional excursion in lazy screenwriting so paper thin and uninspiring you can see Bullock, playing the hardened convict at the center of the movie, realize this thing’s a dud midway through.


She plays Ruth Slater, a cold and expressionless woman getting released from prison after a 20 year stint for killing a cop. The flashbacks handle the logistics of how the police officer ended up on the wrong end of a shotgun slug (maybe it was an accident, maybe it wasn’t) but all Ruth can think about is rekindling with little sister Kathrine who was put up for adoption after she got sent to the slammer.


Gradually reentering society isn’t easy for Ruth considering folks don’t appreciate a cop killer, though she finds a job gutting fish at a nearby plant and befriends co-worker Blake (Berenthal) and, in bizarre development, becomes chummy with John (D’Onofrio), a corporate lawyer who lives with his wife (Davis - completely wasted) at her old home (the place where the cop was murdered).


John tries facilitating a dialogue with Kathrine’s adoptive parents that doesn’t go well, meanwhile the two sons of the slain police officer, angry Ruth is walking free and showing zero remorse, hatch an oddball kidnapping scheme screenwriters Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz, and Courtenay Mills never get to the appropriate payoff. Bullock, looking stoic and tough, tries to maneuver around all the twists and turns that probably worked better spread out across a three-part series.


Ironically, “The Unforgivable” looks like a stale, grimy television series unsure of its own identity where arguably the two biggest stars working today, Bullock and Davis, both Oscar winners, are given exactly one scene of emotional merit. A climatic shouting match with no weight, which arrives at a point where “The Unforgivable” has pulled us in so many directions (the romantic subplot between Blake and Ruth dies as quickly as it starts) it’s hard to tell which way is up.


Grade: D


THE UNFORGIVABLE is now playing in select theaters and debuts on Netflix Friday, December 10th.