John Travolta’s Raymond Cutter doesn’t forge anything during the first 40 minutes of The Forger, unless we can count his unconvincing, age-inappropriate mane of hair. Cutter, a mopey master forger, is out of prison on early release because his teenage son Will (Tye Sheridan) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
A pair of officers from the Exposition Police Bureau pop in occasionally to relate his history and speculate about his criminal intentions. Cutter spends his time driving Will to chemo, grimacing, and punching out the minions of the small-time gangster who ratted him out four years earlier.
The film is mostly about his attempts to reconcile with his son, who was abandoned early by his drug-addicted mother, and mend fences with his cranky dad (a miscast Christopher Plummer, affecting a hearty Irish accent). Eventually, Cutter is coerced into forging a Gauguin masterpiece for the gangsters, and gets to deliver some poetic nonsense about art in a mumbly Boston Southie accent. The film works marginally well as the story of a broken family trying to heal itself, but the third act is a whole different movie.
The gangsters expect Cutter not only to paint a soulfully perfect forgery of the Gauguin; somehow, he’s supposed to be Thomas Crown and spirit the original out of a Boston museum with his ragtag team of close friends and family. Y’know, like painters do. It’s an implausible and tonally incongruous subplot that pretty much breaks the film’s narrative spine, and the indifference with which it’s executed suggests that maybe director Philip Martin knows it, too.