a critiQal film review Unforgiven (1992)

Plot: When two men cut up a prostitute in Big Whiskey, Montana in 1878, it attracts the attention of two retired gunslingers, William Munny (Eastwood) and Ned Logan (Freeman), who decide to pick up their guns one more time to collect a bounty being offered. The town sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Hackman), however, doesn't take too kindly to gunslingers around his town, and upholds the law...by any means necessary.

566 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 49s)
  • ...Eastwood makes the western worth watching again, both in front of and behind the camera.

A great western, one of two produced in recent years (Tombstone (1993) being the other one), Unforgiven is a prime example of Eastwood at his best. Along with starring, he also directs this unforgettable tale. A must own on DVD, especially with the new 2-disc Special Edition (now available).

The characters are all very well acted, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman the best among them. Eastwood, as retired bad man William Munny, shows immense talent, and pays attention to even the smallest details in his role. From the comical side of the gunslinger, who hasn’t picked up a gun or ridden a horse in almost 11 years, who tries to get back into the swing of things; to the more serious side, where he’s haunted by all he’s done in the past, yet must continue on for honor. Morgan Freeman also shines here, and isn’t outdone by Eastwood at all.

Gene Hackman, as the sheriff of the town, plays his part well, making him the bad guy, but in subtle ways. He doesn’t practice what he preaches, for one. He spouts on about how he doesn’t like men of no honor, but then acts without honor himself. But, Gene Hackman also shows us the normal, everyday life of the guy, and rounds out the character well (and adds a bit of humor) showing him building his house…badly. It’s a nice touch, turning the guy into more of a person than just a bad guy.

The plot is excellent. With the whole storyline of the gunslinger being used so many ways in hundreds of Westerns, it’s refreshing to see a new slant on the whole thing. These guys aren’t inhuman killing machines like The Terminator after all. They’re just decent guys who tend to disagree with the law at one time or another, or they’ve been drawn into the lifestyle by a glamorized tale.

But when the truth of it comes out, they don’t just keep going, they stop and wonder if gunslinging is really all it’s cracked up to be. Unforgiven is definitely one of the most humanizing looks at the gunslingers in recent history.

The special effects are well done for the fight scenes. The scenery is also nice, and the movie has a definite Western feel to it. Even the pace is excellent, a bit reminiscent of the pace of the older gunslingers being shown – it’s a bit slower, but not ponderous, and definitely never slow enough to lose the viewer. The dark feel of the film is perfect as well.

Unforgiven was recognized by the American Film Institute (it’s ranked as one of the top movies of all time) and by the Academy Awards® (it won 4 in 1992, including Best Picture of the Year and Best Director), and it’s no wonder. With it’s exceptional cast, a incredible plot, the perfect pace, and some masterful directing by Clint Eastwood, how could it not be one of the best films of all time?

If you didn’t buy this previously, I don’t blame you. I waited myself. I knew there was a Special Edition that was going to come out for this sooner or later. Well, the special edition is here, and it’s incredible. With a whole extra disc of special features, including a Clint Eastwood appearance in television’s “Maverick,” this DVD special edition was worth the wait.

Go out and buy your own copy today.

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