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208 out of 242 people found the following review useful:
Eastwood & Hackman shine, 30 January 1999
Author: Kaserynofthegyre from Adelaide
Unforgiven is about as far from the fantasy mythos of A Fistful of Dollars
as Clint Eastwood could get. No pin-point accuracy with 19th century
technology, no desire to 'play fair' and face the enemy on even terms. If
you can shoot him in the back...then do it.
Eastwood puts in an astonishing performance as the retired killer Muny, saved from his life of thievery and murder by his late wife. Now, desperately trying to support his children with no income, he is tempted back to his killing ways by the bounty offered by the women of a brothel, one of whom's number has been savagely beaten and disfigured by a drunken ranch-hand.
The film follows Eastwood as he wrestles with his desire to honour his wife's memory and his need to feed his children by returning to the killer that, he fears, is his true nature. Meanwhile word of the bounty has spread and the events spiral out of control as the sheriff (Gene Hackman) deals with the guns for hire that ride into town.
While all the supporting cast are excellent Gene Hackman's Oscar winning performance even manages to eclipse Eastwoods as the brutal Sheriff. He beats one of the bounty hunters, English Bob (Richard Harris) almost to death and then explains to a journalist, in one of the film's stand out scenes, how men like he and Muny are so successful at killing. The mood moves from light banter to life threatening seriousness...and back again, with just one move of his head.
One of the greatest Westerns ever made? Certainly. Although the fact it's a western is really secondary. In truth it's a tale of the nature of evil and the nature of man. Eastwood uses the gap between the western myth and reality as an arena to play out his story and does so with consummate style.
127 out of 154 people found the following review useful:
Requiem for a Western, 17 April 2005
Author: murrayjp from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unforgiven will always be the last Western. No matter what comes after
it, Tombstone, The Missing, or Wyatt Erp, Unforgiven has the final
word. Not that I wouldn't characterize those films as Westerns, but the
spirit of Unforgiven, from the opening shot of the house with the
scrawny tree and lonely grave, to the end which returns there, is
imbued with the finality of a spent genre. The feelings evoked are
ambivalent and distant, much like the characters within Unforgiven
itself. Perhaps Clint Eastwood's genius lies partially in that he
doesn't allow for us to mourn. It wouldn't be western to cry because a
story-form is over, it wouldn't be leather to empathize for a broken
man who doesn't want your sympathy, it wouldn't be spurs to despair
about the implacable and corrupt forces of life which turn men like
William Munny into killers.
Clint Eastwood presents to the audience the most distorted configuration of the western; the most disfigured example of a genre whose classical conventions were untouchable and sacrosanct. We have no heroes and no villains, only a protagonist and a puffed up sheriff who thinks he's doing the right thing (and does in fact have more moral vision than the dried out killer) The movie itself is riddled with identity crises, the killer has turned into a farmer and a father, the young gunslinger is a virgin to bloodletting, the sheriff shows signs of being a slave master, and the innocent one gets it first and gets it dirty. Gone are the days of the Magnificent 7 where one rode into town, rallied the brave cowpokes with shiny silver pistols, and dispatched an easily recognizable enemy. Gone even are the days of Bonnie and Clyde where gunslingers were attractive and fascinating to the audience, exuding flair, charisma, and sparking the imagination. They were legends; William Munny is a sad bit of history. He is presented with deadpan honesty, not as a caricatured Tarantino assassin, or a misunderstood old man who has atoned for past wrongs. He is a broken human person, so lost along the moral frontier that the only compass he can grasp is more killing.
Throughout the movie, we are reminded again and again of the stark contrast Unforgiven stands in to most other Westerns, by the obsequious scribe W. W. Beauchamp. He was the one who wrote the John Wayne stories, (the ones with ethical clarity at least). He was the one who coined phrases like "high-noon" and "hot lead". In Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood, takes apart the classical western narrative piece by piece allowing the audience to inspect the illusion. Characters like English Bob are unscrupulous frauds, ladies in distress are revenge bent whores, and old men really don't ever change for the better. They become that way when sensationalized by hack storytellers like Beauchamp. And when the only character materializes who seems to at least fit the description of gunslinger, Munny is so empty and hopelessly unheroic that we begin to reconcile ourselves to the end of the Western. Where else is there to go? We understand how the old stories were crafted thanks to the insider's view provided by Beauchamp, and what's left is a craggy faced cadaver with a dead wife, a dead friend, and two forgotten children.
Every character within Unforgiven inhabits a gray zone that clouds the audiences's ability to easily categorize them as good or evil. We are forced to come to a more nuanced understanding of each as a human being with redeeming as well as corrupt qualities. The two cowboys committed a horrendous crime by knifing the prostitute, but did they deserve death, especially the young one, who didn't do the knifing, clearly felt remorse, and tried to make a peace offering? The whores are right to demand justice, but do they ever take into account the wishes of the victim, who if anything seems to strike some romantic sparks with the young cowboy. By the film's end, they are bloodthirsty sirens screaming at the body of the dead young cowboy. The sheriff Little Bill, compounds the opening crime by allowing it to go unpunished, but later exposes English Bob and tries to keep people from getting killed--(is he protecting unrepentant criminals, or is he allowing old wounds to heal?) And of course there's Munny himself, who won't pay to touch a woman but will kill prolifically for a purpose that is murky at best.
By Unforgiven's end, the audience feels alienated from characters and message. The conclusion of William Munny's life is narrated by a cold, impersonal voice that labels him a scoundrel, but doesn't care enough to waste much breath condemning him. We are left with the image of the homestead, the center and heart of the Western film, where man attempted to master the wildness within his environment and himself. This house is empty and abandoned, its only companion the forlorn grave memorializing a genre which has passed away.
98 out of 115 people found the following review useful:
Unforgettable, 6 June 2000
Author: Cathy Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Middletown, NJ
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Unforgiven" may well be Clint Eastwood's greatest triumph as an actor and
director. In this grim, dark, and yet strangely beautiful story of former
gunslinger William Munny (Eastwood), who comes out of retirement for one
last job, Eastwood deliberately sets out to demystify the old West. This
evident in the conversations between Munny and the Schofield Kid (Jaimze
Wolvett), who has a romanticized image of the old-time gunfighters, and
between sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) and hack journalist
Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek). Yet the "demythologizing" message doesn't feel
forced; it is woven effortlessly into a gripping story that powerfully
conveys the human cost of violence.
Moral ambiguity pervades the film, which has no easy resolutions and no customary clear lines between good and evil. Will and his friend Ned (Morgan Freeman), nominally the heroes, have clearly done many bad things in their lives. When they come to Big Whiskey as hired killers, it is ostensibly for a just cause -- to punish two no-good cowboys who slashed the face of a prostitute. Yet, as we know from the beginning, the version of the attack that is reported to Will and Ned is highly and grotesquely exaggerated. While the cowboys certainly should have been punished, we may legitimately wonder if death is a punishment that fits the crime. The agonizing death of the younger of the two cowboys, who didn't do the slashing and clearly felt bad about what his partner had done, certainly doesn't look like justice.
The ostensible villain, Little Bill, is not just a villain. He is a sheriff determined to preserve law and order in the town. One can't blame him for wanting to keep paid assassins out. In a violent society, there's no way he can do his job without using violence. Unfortunately, he also takes a sadistic pleasure in his brutality -- even though he also seems to want a peaceful, quiet life in the house he's building.
One might say that Munny's heroics in the guns-blazing climax undercut the film's purpose of dismantling the mystique of the Old West and its gunfighters. But the truth is, "Unforgiven" is both an homage to and a deconstruction of that mystique. While Munny acquires almost mythic stature in that scene, his actions are still morally shady, and his exchange with the nerdy Beauchamp quickly dispels the romantic aura. What's more, his "rise" to heroism can also be seen as a fall from grace and a reversion to his old ways.
The film may be just a tad slow at times, but at 2 hrs 10 minutes, it remains nearly always gripping. (As for those IMDB reviewers who've knocked the movie because there are too many scenes where Eastwood's character is weak and pathetic, falling off his horse or getting beat up -- why don't you just go see some Arnold Schwarzenegger flick!) Not only are the principal characters well-developed, but even minor characters come across as real people with individual traits; the credit is due both to the excellent screenplay and to the superb cast. The scenes between Will Munny and Delilah, the prostitute who was slashed, are very touching without being at all "sappy." Eastwood is simply superb as the tortured and self-loathing Munny; Gene Hackman fully matches him as Little Bill; Morgan Freeman exudes a quiet dignity as Ned; Wolvett acquits himself well as "the Kid." Add to this a scene-stealing performance by Richard Harris as the elegant, vicious gunslinger English Bob, and terrific work by Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher as the prostitute Strawberry Alice, and Anna Levine as Delilah.
"Unforgiven" is a modern classic, a must-see for those who appreciate intelligent, high-quality filmmaking.
132 out of 193 people found the following review useful:
'A Man With No Name' Becomes 'A Man With A Real Story'., 12 November 2004
Author: Stephen West (email@example.com) from London, England
Clint Eastwood's storytelling gives the western genre one of its most
sublime story's. Gone is the trademark mysterious hero and in its place
is an ex gunman who made his peace when he met his wife. Eastwood has
transcended traditional entertainment to storytelling craftsmanship. He
delivers rich characters with deep rooted problems inextricably linked
to the villains of the story. Refusing to wither and die away, style
has been perfectly adapted with age thus ensuring his maturation into a
true Hollywood legend.
Besides his now distinctive storytelling, there are numerous factors that make this a landmark Western. The ensemble cast could not have been stronger and there were no weak performances. The soundtrack accentuates the intended atmosphere of the director. A single detracting factor I could find only just qualifies as such. Munny's whimsical lines seemed a little contrived at times. They droned on like pale attempts to capture the Western era. But this is a consequence of the fact that they were more to do with the character of William Munny. He is after all a reformed killer with a now passive approach to people. Given this fact and also that it may have been distracting since it was so out of sync with what we are used to seeing from Eastwood, I still have to list it as a demerit on the account it slightly jerked me out of the story.
Hollywood producers have to satisfy audience preferences if investments are going to accrue profits. It is the nature of the beast. The action and more specifically the Western genre will stick to tried and tested formulas in order to guarantee audience acceptance. But every so often you get people who as a natural consequence of their unique character appeal are able to deliver a story that is outside these understandably restrictive boundaries. Eastwood is a cool individualist who normally plays characters who are not team players and do it their own way. His own way this time is to give the western genre a real story oozing characterization. A sort of ballad for the bad guy.
The ballads tune provides the story with a sad, introspective mood, within the opening and closing scenes. The opening scene depicts Munny in his new found life. He is cured of his wicked ways, helped by his dear, departed wife. But men are not willing to forgive or forget his monstrous deeds and in the final scenes he is who he has to be. Such is the sorrowful life of William Munny.
Westerns are typified by clearly defined goodies and baddies, but this is definitely not the case here. Eastwood and Freeman play reformed killers who find circumstances drawing them once again to their evil ways. But the older and wiser men now realize the value of life and come face to face with their troubled consciences. This is unlike their naïve, young partner who is attracted to the bravado image of the killer and relishes taking a man's life. This moral issue is virtually taboo for the classic western which glamorizes the lawlessness and the hero attraction of the gunslinger. This is also why in my view no-one besides Eastwood should have handled this movie.
Then we have the juiciest character of the movie superbly played by Gene Hackman worthy of the weight of every micro granule of his Oscar. He is the epitome of every hard-line lawman that ever was. The misguidance of the so called righteously empowered, swinging the hammer against evil for good. Hackman must have salivated when he read the script since there was obvious relish in his performance. All the better for the movie, and of course for Eastwood at the Oscars. By far the best performance and the others were good further underlining the talent of the man.
The antagonist of the movie is almost always the most complex and thus most interesting to analyze. His vain attempts at carpentry are his way of trying to appear to be a good man. There is purity in building ones own home and it is this wholesomeness that he wishes to capture. In that way his fellow citizens will see him as a simple man only wanting to lead a righteous life. But his inability as a carpenter is indicative of his depravity. He cannot be a good man. The source of his drive is anger and hatred. It is through this failing that we realize he cannot escape who he is.
Indeed it was not only the power of the script that gave the audience a spellbinding climax, but the talents of the actors. The actors' characterizations deliver the audience a spellbinding climax. It is only through Hackman's performance that we not only acknowledge his ending as inevitable, but also as deserving. We saw him as a man who virtually thought that he was righteously empowered to rid the earth of Munny and his kind What he thought was an honorable task was one rather of abuse and suppression. He became the baddie in the eyes of the audience and it is he who the audience wants to see justice served upon.
Munny was so weak throughout the movie that the eruption of his evil ways captured the interest of the audience. He transformed into the Eastwood of old the anti hero with a far more malevolent presence. Never could we have sensed this hatred and evil that we now see in William Munny. It is now that the frivolity of his mannerisms that I touched on in the beginning adds to the story as it helps to accentuate the turn in character. He is now only a killer, in it neither for money or fame as the writer nearly finds out to his tragic detriment.
Those who have only seen his Westerns of old or the 'Dirty Harry' movies may enter the cinema with expectations of such like will either be disappointed or pleasantly surprised. It is the atypical western and an unfamiliar portrayal by Eastwood. But I believe that most people will have the latter reaction. The differences are their strengths helped by the fact that it was a superbly crafted movie with a meaningful story and thought provoking lessons for our heroes and villains. Eastwood was directly suited to the roles that we identify him with, but it is exactly because of this suitability that he eases into the role of Munny. No mellowing with age, no identification with the mainstream, he has always done it his way, and he is so good that any way could be his way.
96 out of 132 people found the following review useful:
An old man reconnects with his wicked past, 10 December 2004
Author: whstrock from Southeast Georgia
I enjoy the transformation of Clint Eastwood's character throughout the movie. In the beginning he reluctantly becomes a gunfighter but as the movie progresses you see how he slides down the slippery slope of wickedness to become the cold-blooded killer needed for the task. Morgan Freeman's reaction to the transformation is well played also. Richard Harris' character is colorful as is his sidekick. Gene Hackman's sheriff is pleasantly atypical of the role. All these actors and their characters effectively leave the viewer with a myriad of directions from which the movie expertly entertains. If you are expecting anything like Clint's "spaghetti westerns" you will be disappointed. If you are looking for an excellent story with characters that all have varying degrees of wickedness, you will be satisfied when its all said and done.
68 out of 79 people found the following review useful:
A Fitting End, 7 June 2007
Author: erostew from Canada
There may never be another real western. Clint appears to be done with
the genre and there really isn't anyone else I can think of that can do
it Properly. Sergio Leone is gone. William Wellman is gone. Sam
Peckinpah is gone. John Huston is gone. John Ford is gone. Howard Hawks
Kevin Costner tries hard but he just doesn't get it. Dances With Wolves wasn't really a western. It wasn't even an anti-western. It was more like a political indictment of the actions of the Americans of the time. For all that I did enjoy it.
Most of the others since Unforgiven are movies where somebody decides to put the characters on a horse, but the story is just generic pap. Nobody has the balls to make something with a meaning.
I will grant that Deadwood is a truly excellent series but it isn't a movie.
That's why I believe that Unforgiven is a fitting end to the western genre. I won't get all rhapsodic and spout a bunch of crap about how Clint made this movie as a symbol of the end of the western. Cuz that's a load of crap. The script had been around since the early 70s when things were still going strong. What it is, is a movie that shows us that there is no black and white in any time. There are only shades of grey.
It is also just as dirty and violent as things actually were for most people in that era. Life was comparatively cheap and most people didn't have much hope of justice. The middle class was very small and the upper class was tiny. The vast majority belonged to the under-classes.
Good guys didn't wear white hats and not every sheriff was a good guy. Some were violent and corrupt braggarts and bullies. Little Bill mocks English Bob's self-promotion, but at the same time he knocks Bob down he builds himself up. He doesn't bother with courts or judges and he is his own executioner. He isn't motivated by any innate sense of justice when he deals with any criminal elements. It's more that he takes it as an insult to his own power.
William Munny is a killer, plain and simple. He has human feelings but basically he is unrepentant. He changed for his wife, but like many changes it wasn't permanent. He won't sleep with a whore but when he needs money he is willing to kill for it. At the same time he treats the whore with kindness and is loyal to his friend. And somehow he managed to get a good woman to love him. A classic anti-hero.
Rather than being about the end of the Western genre I believe that it is actually an ode to what came before it. Sergio Leone would have been proud.
81 out of 110 people found the following review useful:
A deeply melancholy and complex farewell to the west, 14 August 2004
Author: ed_zeppelin from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"You just shot an unarmed man!"
"Well, he should have armed himself..."
Plenty of films have tried to examine the human side of violence. This is especially appropriate for westerns, where very often rows of men are gunned down without a thought. 'Unforgiven' does better than most, but where this differs from other films is that at the end this whole theme is flipped around as the outlaw William Munny (Clint Eastwood) pulls of a truly legendary piece of shooting. This scene though only emphasises a great sense of failure for the characters, which for me is the most prominent theme of the film. For most characters, their failures are obvious, but I won't give too many examples for fear of spoiling it.
Look at the way the trio of Munny, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) are slowly whittled down to just Munny, as the others realise that they just don't have what it takes to kill people anymore. Munny, although carrying out his task to the full, has equally failed in his attempt to reform himself as he proves to himself that he is not a pig farmer after all, but still the legendarily cold blooded killer from years ago.
Westerns have had different ways of looking at violence. Leone looked at the build up. Peckinpah looked at the violence itself. Eastwood here looks at the moment after the violence and shows the heartbreaking consequences. Given this it is all the more shocking to see just how merciless and devastating Munny's furious assault on the saloon really is, with him shooting unarmed and wounded men just for the sake of completeness. There is a question of motivations though-before he was in it for the money, but when a personal element is added to the mix the results are volcanic. But this is no blaze of glory for Munny, but something that has to be done, and although treated in a callous way there is a sense that this will have consequences as far reaching as before. Munny has failed in his attempt to reform himself, and the purpose of his life is defeated. There is a suggestion that Munny is damned-there is a moment in the carnage where Munny stops for a drink. The scene is shot so that Eastwood appears to have no reflection the large mirror placed above the bar. More obvious is the following exchange between Munny and Sheriff Dagget (Gene Hackman):
"See you in Hell, William Munny" "Yeah."
The way the climax is presented would be perhaps more appropriate for a more lurid western, with most shots going wild-far more shots are fired than are strictly necessary, in true action film tradition. This is just the point though, as the end is supposed to be at odds with the grittily realistic nature of the rest of the film. The end result is a powerful message powerfully put across.
That is not to say that other westerns that do not necessarily share this sentiment (at least to this level) are less powerful-the theme of 'Once Upon A Time In The West' is equally strong and affecting, but the message is different and presented in a different way. 'Unforgiven' proves though, both to the writer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) and to the audience, that there is a flip side to every story and a dark side to every man.
73 out of 97 people found the following review useful:
How the west was, 19 January 2006
Author: (firstname.lastname@example.org) from San Fracisco, CA
This film was a revelation, a western that DOESN'T LIE. The whole theme stripping away the mythology our culture has built around the west, scraping it away like the finish on a mirror and reveling the ugliness AND the humanity beneath. I was utterly convinced, both by the portrayal of the period and the reality of the characters. A large focus was its treatment of the subject of killing. The movie SHOWS US what it is like to kill a man, a stark stark contrast to the casual attitude taken by so many other westerns. We see what we already know, wild west or no, that killing is something that most people just aren't capable of. And yet the character of William Munny shows us that in spite of the mundanity he embodies in his later life, true evil still existed then as now, and every now and then, true heroism.
53 out of 70 people found the following review useful:
Masterpiece, 19 February 2007
Author: José Luis Rivera Mendoza (jluis1984) from Mexico
Ford, Hawks, Leone, Peckinpah, all of them big names who have defined
the Western genre in one way or another across the history of cinema,
transforming what started as low-budget action films into an art itself
where the American Old West served as setting for tales of mythical
heroism, classic tragedies, and legendary adventures. Actor and
Director Clint Eastwood is probably one of the most knowledgeable
artists about the Western genre, as his acting career began as the
legendary "Man With No Name" in the Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns
of the 60s. As a director, he somewhat continued this legacy through
movies like "High Plains Drifter" and "Pale Rider", but finally in
1992, Eastwood released what many consider his final ode to the
Western, and his ultimate masterpiece of the genre: "Unforgiven", an
epic saga about the deconstruction of the Western myths.
Clint Eastwood himself plays William Munny, a former gunslinger who is now living a peaceful life as a farmer with his two children. However, life is very difficult for Munny's family, as since the death of his wife the family has been facing financial problems. One day a young man calling himself "The Schofield Kid" (Jaimz Woolvett) appears looking for Munny. The Kid tells Munny about a bounty offered in the town of Big Whisky, and offers him the chance to join him as hired gun and split the reward between them. While Munny's days as a murderer are in the past, he decides to join him after thinking about the farm's problems, but not without calling his old friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to join them. However, Munny's past as a notorious thief and murderer will return to haunt him in this last mission, as the Kid shows a true and honest admiration for Munny's fame as a gunslinger, even when Munny himself considers his past as villainous.
While better known for his work in science fiction, David Webb Peoples' screenplay proves to be a very accurate description of life in the American west, particularly concerning the aspects of the uses and abuses of violence in that era. It is in fact the use of violence what comes as the main theme of the story, as Munny is escaping from his past's violence while the Kid is eagerly awaiting the next chance to prove his masculinity by the use of violence. The duality between man and myth is explored not only via the relationship between the Kid and Munny, but also in the shape of a character who writes novels about the wild west, and sees the figure of the gunslinger as an idolized modern hero. Peoples' screenplay is remarkably well written, as the many characters and their relationships are exhaustively explored, resulting in a character driven revisionism of the western, that in many ways criticizes the genre's origins as violent "Shoot 'em up" films.
Peoples' script is definitely the movie's backbone, but it is Eastwood's masterful direction what transforms this meditation of violence into a unique revision of the Western. With a gritty and realistic approach very in tone with the script, Eastwood portraits the Wild West without romanticism and leaving out the mythic aspects of the genre, taking the revisionism of the Western one step beyond. Using Peoples' script, Eastwood takes a critic view on the figure of the "hero" in Westerns, focusing on the image of the gunslinger and the use of violence to solve problems. Visually, Eastwood has crafted his most impressive movie since "Bird", with an extensive use of shadows and light in the excellent work of cinematography by Jack N. Green. Eastwood's style, originated by the influence of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, and developed through many stages seems to finally have spawned its masterpiece in this film.
As William Munny, Clint Eastwood is simply perfect in what at first sight looks like an extension of his earlier "Man with no name" persona. William Munny has a name, and a past he wants to escape from, and Estwood captures the image of guilt and regret to the letter. This is easily one of his best roles to date. Morgan Freeman is also very good as Ned Logan, although like Jaimz Woolvett (who plays The Schofield Kid), gets easily overshadowed by Gene Hackman's powerful performance as Little Bill Daggett. Hackman completely owns every scene he is in, showcasing his enormous talent in a very dramatic role. The legendary Richard Harris has a small appearance as another aging gunslinger, English Bob, in very memorable scenes where he demonstrates why he is considered one of the best actors of his generation.
After starting his career playing a mythical hero in Leone's "Dollars" trilogy, it is actually fitting that is Eastwood who explores the figure of hero in his many movies. Ever since his first directed western, Eastwood showed an interest in the duality of the hero, taking a special interest in the archetype of hero portrayed in the classic 1953 Western, "Shane". Eastwood has explored this theme in many ways in the past: first as a true antihero ("High Plains Drifter"), then as a man becoming legend ("The Outlaw Josey Wales") and later as a true mythic hero ("Pale Rider"); all this culminates in "Unforgiven" as the ultimate demythologization of the concept, and his final ode to the Western genre. While the movie indeed feels a bit "preachy" at times, the story is devised in such a way that it never feels too heavy handed, as it unfolds nicely as a classic epic tale of the West.
Personally, I can't praise this movie enough, as it is easily one of the best Westerns done since Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch", and required viewing not only for fans of the genre. While some consider it an "anti-Western", I think that with this movie, Eastwood's name can proudly stand along those of Ford, Hawks, Leone and Peckinpah as a master of the Western. "Unforgiven" is definitely Clint's masterpiece. 10/10
78 out of 121 people found the following review useful:
Amazingly Thought-Provoking on How Much a Life is Worth and the Inner Workings of a Man With a Regrettable Past, 5 April 2007
Author: Sergeant_Tibbs from Suffolk, England
In 1992, Clint Eastwood created the last and greatest western;
'Unforgiven'. A tribute to the previous masters, Sergio Leone and Don
Siegel, who died within a mere 3 years before this brutal masterpiece.
Eastwood stars as William Munny a retired gunslinger with a guilt-filled past. He lives alone with his two children and grave of his young wife outside. One day a young cowboy, The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), comes in need of his service to hunt down some men who cut up a whore. William reluctantly accepts and with the help of Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) they work together to track down the criminals. Meanwhile, the sheriff of the town, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) is also looking for them. This then leads to a bloody showdown climax, welcoming back a sort of 'Man With No Name' character to the genre.
William Munny is a cold-blooded killer. The Schofield Kid wants to be one. But, all the murders and sins Munny used to commit has affected him in an extraordinary way. He takes no hesitation in killing. In the climax he just walks past a man he shot who didn't die and shoots him dead. It may sound like nothing now, but he just took a life for no apparent reason. When the Kid kills his first man, of which deserved it, he hesitates. This is The Kid who is so eager to kill people as he thinks it will make him a man. But after the assassination, he breaks down. He realized what he had done. He had wiped another man of the earth. And Munny does it with ease. So does Little Bill. He is a violent and brutal cop who uses torture to get what he wants from the prisoners. Logan also finds it hard to take lives.
The film studies on how much a life is worth. Sometimes it is worthless (see Tarantino or Scorsese films) and sometimes it is a major feature. Usually a film only does one. Unforgiven does both. A life isn't worth the same amount to each person. When a life is taken, it is the killer who decides how much it is worth by how much it affects him. Whether he just lets it slide (Munny and Little Bill) or kills someone and calls it a day (Kid and Logan), because they can't bring themselves to forgetting it. This is the most thought-provoking thing for me personally, ever.
Unforgiven in my opinion is the greatest western. Actually, its the greatest film of all-time. It shows how violent it was back then, and the fact everybody was beaten. It is more realistic than any of Leone's 'Man With No Name' films (though I will admit they were set in a sort of fantasy land). But, Munny is not proud of his violent nature. He blames it on alcohol; which his wife persuaded him to quit to explain why he also gave up being a murderer. The film shows the cowboys as they really are, either cowards or killers. The choice of word 'coward' is to say that they should be killers, as that is apparently what a man is (an exaggeration) as most westerns glorify violence, but the men can't handle it.
Clint Eastwood did an amazing job as William Munny. He showed how he regretted his past very well by admitting to it in a shameful way; like when asked if he killed women and children he replied "I've killed just about anything that walked or crawled at one time or another, and I'm here to kill you ". He even admits that he will meet Little Bill in Hell. Gene Hackman delivers one of the greatest performances of the decade, the tension he makes is incredible. Woolvett and Freeman remain in solid above average performances throughout.
The script, written by David Webb Peoples, buzzed around Hollywood for nearly 20 years, even being rejected by some of the cast, before Eastwood picked it up. Clint Eastwood deserved his Oscar for best direction. The plot flowed fluently with some surprises and memorable lines. An instant classic. The cinematography is much different that of 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' or the others westerns Eastwood appeared in. It is a much cleaner and crisp view, yet also being extremely raw. The score, though not used often is very refreshing and moving.
'Unforgiven' is an unforgettable look on life, man and the real west. One of the most powerful films of the '90s. A true triumph exploring important morals. Do not miss it.
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