It's interesting that when UNFORGIVEN was released every review show that showed an excerpt would would always show the same clip - the climax where Clint Eastwood's grizzled anti-hero walks in to the saloon and informs Gene Hackman " I've killed everything that's walked and crawled and now i've come to kill you little Bill " . This hooks the audience in to thinking they're going to be watching one of these old school Westerns where convention dictates if you want to survive then you've got to be quick on the draw. This is entirely misleading because UNFORGIVEN is very much an anti-western , something of an antidote to the syrupy feel-good DANCES WITH WOLVES which kick started a mini boom of the Western genre. Both films are at a polar opposite in most ways but share a common ground in that they're both films that won the Oscar for best pictures. They also share the common ground that they're overlong
One wonders how well it would have been received during " The New Hollywood " era ? There wouldn't have been much need to recast . You could still have Eastwood , Hackman and Harris play the same characters. One can speculate the critics wouldn't have held it in too high regard because there wasn't enough violent action as seen in the likes of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER . David Webb Peoples screenplay is well over long by about an hour and is populated by characters that don't really drive the plot forward . Take for example the character of English Bob superbly played by Richard Harris . He arrives in town is beaten up by Little Bob , who arrests and taunts him in the town jailhouse and is then run out of town . It's an acting tour de force by both Harris and Hackman but what has this to do with anything except to perhaps point out it's July the fourth ? It's a very loose screenplay which puzzles me why it was so rewarded by that year's award shows
I can see what UNFORGIVEN is trying to do . The title alone points out the subtext - it's a story of one man's redemption . The problem is that the story for some perplexing reason introduces so many characters that it looses focus on the person and clogs up the story unnecessarily . These characters are cast very well and this saves the film from its most obvious fault in that it's an overlong film lacking a central narrative drive . You don't agree ? Imagine if Kevin Costner as Bill Munney , Eddie Murphy as Ned Long , Hugh Grant as English Bob and Jason Priestley as The Schofield Kid . Different film now isn't it ?
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