In attempting to spin out its competing storylines, the crime drama "The Forger" never quite gets a handle on either one. Still, an array of strong performances, including a well-calibrated turn by John Travolta, and compelling emotional moments help counter the patchy narrative.
Travolta plays Raymond Cutter, a Boston art forger who manages to cut short a lengthy jail stay with an assist from a local drug boss, Keegan (Anson Mount). As payback to Keegan, who's in deep with an art-collecting cartel boss, Raymond must forge a copy of Claude Monet's 1875 portrait, "Woman With Parasol," then switch it out with the real thing hanging in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Meanwhile, law enforcers (Abigail Spencer, Travis Aaron Wade) follow.
For someone with only a few weeks to replicate a world-renowned painting, Raymond spends an awful lot of time not painting it. That's because his teenage son, Will (Tye Sheridan), for whom Raymond plotted his early prison exit, has stage-four brain cancer and a few last wishes — meeting his estranged mother (Jennifer Ehle), losing his virginity — that he needs Raymond's help to accomplish. It's not as hokey or maudlin as it sounds.
Will's third wish is to accompany his dad and flinty con-man grandpa (Christopher Plummer) on the museum switcheroo. That's where things really fall apart in Richard D'Ovidio's script: Aside from the moral madness of enmeshing a minor in such proceedings, the after-hours gallery infiltration proves a rote, tension-free affair.
As for Raymond's artistic prowess, it's too cursorily handled to be credible. Director Philip Martin makes good use of key Boston locations.
MPAA rating: R for language and some violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
Playing: AMC Universal CityWalk 19. Also on VOD.