The film opens in a town miles away run by the evil Little Bill (Gene Hackman), the corrupt town sherriff. In the town brothel, a hooker is beaten to a pulp by two men who get away with simply having to hand over some horses to the owner of the joint. Seeking revenge, the women of the facility put together their small fortunes and put up a stash of reward money for the assassination of the two men.
Enter the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvet), who is eager to hunt down the two men and collect the reward money. He invites Will Munny to accompany and help him with his quest. At first Will refuses, but then he decides to put down his pitch fork and use his weapons one more time. Along the way, Will and the Schofield Kid pick up Ned (Morgan Freeman), another retired gunslinger living out west in peace and harmony. Together they ride off into the sunset in hopes of finding their targets and collecting some reward money for their efforts. Things aren't always as simple as they seem.
The Schofield Kid claims he has killed five men. But Ned and Will come to an agreement that they think he's bluffing. The Schofield Kid is like an eager kid wanting to impress his role model. Whe"Unforgiven" is a tender western that isn't quite as unrealistic as you might expect walking into the theater to watch it. Clint Eastwood is famous for the cowboy roles. Now it's his turn to give a new insight into the feelings of cowboys. The underlying roots of the movie are quite simple--you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Even though Will has left his brutal and abusive past behind him, his old personality is still in there, somewhere amongst the chaos of his colliding feelings. He's a man beaten by his heart more than by any enemy he has encountered in the past.
Gene Hackman is always good for bad guy roles, mainly because he can create some of the most hateable characters of all time. I saw "Crimson Tide" immediately after "Unforgiven"--his roles are often the same, but there is no doubting that he can create a truly mean character while still adding some depth to his persona.
Clint Eastwood is one great director. He has created a wonderful and grim epic that transcends the genre. Westerns have always been a bit cheesy as compared to more contemporary films (after all, there's a reason they're often called spaghetti westerns). "Unforgiven" is given the regular screen treatment. This is a more accurate portrayal of the wild, wild west. "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" is superior, but that's a given.
The end of "Unforgiven" is a mix between "Taxi Driver" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." It's a bit depressing, but, at the same time, refreshingly noble. It's one of the best cinematic climaxes ever created. The message behind "Unforgiven" may not be encouraging, but some of the greatest films aren't.