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  • 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.
  • Warning: 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 is 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 W.W. 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.
  • erostew7 June 2007
    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 is gone.

    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.
  • Warning: 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.
  • jluis198419 February 2007
    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
  • tjcbs19 January 2006
    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.
  • William Munny (Clint Eastwood taking the lead and directing the piece) is an old and retired gunman whose past misdemeanours would make the devil himself seem tame. Widowed and struggling to raise his two children on a paltry farm, he's tempted out of retirement for one last pay dirt job, the consequence of which provides violence - both physically and of the soul.

    Clint Eastwood signed off from the Western genre with this magnificent 1992 picture, the appropriation and irony of which is in itself a majestic point of reference. After the script had been knocking around for nigh on twenty years (written by Blade Runner scribe David Webb Peoples), Eastwood seized the opportunity to play William Munney and lay bare the mythologies of the Wild West.

    It's striking that the makers here have lured us in to being firmly on Munney's side, we are, incredibly, influenced by Eastwood's part in the history of the Western. In spite of Munney's obvious murky past (despicable crimes they be), we wait (and hope) for Munney to make a quip and way lay the bad guys - in fact salivating at the prospect is probably closer to the truth. So it's with enormous credit that Eastwood, and his magnificent cast and crew, manage to fuddle all our respective perceptions of the West and the characters we ourselves have aged with.

    It's not for nothing that W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) is one of the critical characters on show, this even though we didn't expect that to be the case. Beauchamp is a writer of penny pulpy novels that tell of derring-do heroics, gunslingers with a glint in their eye who deal death as some sort of heroic encore. This gives Unforgiven an excellent sleight of hand, for this West is grim and a destroyer of all illusions and it's not controversial to say that this is indeed a good thing.

    Eastwood is greatly served by the actors around him, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman (winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for a script he turned down many years before!), Rubinek, Frances Fisher, Anna Thomson, Jaimz Woolvett and an incredible cameo from Richard Harris. Along with Hackman's win for his brutally tough portrayal of Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett, Unforgiven also won Oscars for Eastwood for his clinically tight direction, Best Picture, Best Editing and it was nominated in another five categories. One of those nominations was for Jack Green's cinematography, which now, in this age of High Definition enhanced cinema, can be seen in all its wonderful glory. The Alberta location is magically transformed into the Western frontier, with the orange and brown hues a real treat for the eyes.

    Ultimately though, Unforgiven is a lesson in adroit film making, where across the board it works so well. Why? Well because the man at the helm knows this genre inside out, he was after all the sole flag bearer for practically 25 years. He learnt from his peers, and thus Eastwood has crafted a thematically complex piece that for all its violence, debunking and melancholy pulse beats, is a film that is as beautiful as it is most assuredly stark. An incredible and true highlight of modern day cinema, regardless of being a genre fan or not. 10/10
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have heard quite a bit for "Unforgiven", also I want to seen all the best pictures from the 90's. I was also excited to see Morgan Freeman in the cast, so I know now that "Million Dollar Baby" was not Clint and Morgan's first experience together. They work so well as a team and bring nothing but sheer entertainment and charm to movies.

    "Unforgiven" is a very good picture that has a real story and isn't just about "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and Indians". How far would you go for a friend? I loved Will and Ned's friendship so much because you could tell how much they had been through together and Will went back to his old ways in the blink of an eye for his dear friend. I loved watching Will's story through the movie, the first time you see him, he's just so charming and you would never had suspected of his former life of crime, alcohol, and bloodshed. Through the film, you have a lot of doubt for his character if he could go back to his old life despite his promises to his deceased wife. He, the Kid, and Ned go on a trip to kill two cowboys who cut up a prostitute's face for $1,000.00. Together, they learn that this isn't going to be such an easy task when the boys they're hunting down belong to a town where guns and all arms are banned that could lead to a punishment as far as death. But Will gets sick and the Kid and Ned give a lot of talk in killing these cowboys themselves, when Will is just half himself he does the deed himself in killing one of the cowboys. He tells Ned to go back home and he'll take care of the other cowboy, he does so but gets caught and beat to death by the sheriff.

    The Kid and Clint do the rest of the job by killing the other cowboy and receive their reward by the prostitutes, but Will learns of Ned and goes back into his old habits. What happens next? You'll have to watch yourself.

    Something that I learned that was interesting, Clint dedicated Unforgiven to Don Siegal and Sergio Leone, two directors who believed in him as a young actor. Unforgive is a remarkable film: methodical, deeply felt, with a devastating emotional and moral impact. It is easily one of the best Western movies. Like I said, it just has such a classic feel to it and you can't help but enjoy it. It seems like Clint might just own Hollywood one day. :)

  • puutsi28 October 2005
    This is The movie that convinced me that "Clint" is indeed from a higher ground. Thoug, I've always considered Clint as a good actor,I didn't know about his capabilities as a director, he really never proved him self to me. This movie does all of that and more. Grovin up whit western movies, I would have to say that unforgiven is about whole new genre among western movies. Unforgiven is really a true statement of man's brutality and what he "or" she is capable of. Religion,marriage,children, doesn't change ones true identity. After all, when the "society" comes on you hard, the steps you are willing to take in real life, are sometimes desperate. I hope that this movie could be a bridge for those who don't like western movies, but do appreciate a decent manuscript and some fine acting.
  • Warning: 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.
  • 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.
  • Saw this in the late nineties on a vhs n revisted umpteenth number of times. Own a dvd of it. Jus revisited few days back on a blu ray. Back in those days, my grandpop was excited to see both his fav film stars, Eastwood n Hackman in the same film. The cast is awesomely strong. Eastwood, Hackman n Freeman. This aint just a great Western. Its a great movie with awesome characters. Eastwood playing a tough guy who has killed women and children in the past but trying to lead a decent honest life with his kids on a farm. He has become more weaker with age. His farm is going thru a loss n he is pulled into his darker side once again. On the other side v have Hackman as a sheriff whos against people carrying guns in his town. He is a bit autocratic n sadist when meting out punishment. We have Freeman as Eastwood's old pal who during a shootout acknowledges that he aint no ruthless anymore. All the performances r top notch. Eastwood's direction is truly mesmerizing from opening shot n the editing top notch. The one liners are also memorable. Cinematography by Jack N Green is wonderful. The film begins and ends with a beautiful wide shot, Eastwood standing at the grave near a tree, with a sunset in the background. As a fan of Eastwood n western genre, i owed it myself to write a review of this film.
  • 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.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Unforgiven is Clint Eastwood's tribute to his mentors, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Regarded by many as the last true Western, Unforgiven is truly unforgettable. Though, it being the last true Western is subject to qualification, but it definitely consummates the genre. In fact, it will easily make it to the top 10 of the decorated genre, a genre illuminated by greats like Ford, Wayne, Leone, Peckinpah, and Eastwood himself.

    The movie not only revived Eastwood's career as an actor, but also certified his directorial prowess. Unforgiven doesn't embody righteousness, but projects domination, based on ruthless opportunism. It is a clash of egos, a battle of icons in Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood, each ubiquitously acclaimed for his idiosyncratic style and delivery.

    The two scenes that they share in the movie are exact antithesis of each other, giving them a chance to display their protean skills. The first encounter between William Munny (Eastwood) and Little Bill (Hackman), portrays Munny at his most vulnerable, pitted against a brutally dominant and unforgiving Bill. The second encounter is a completely different affair, with Munny calling the shots, against a helpless Bill.

    The other scenes are equally brilliant, especially the one between English Bob (Richard Harris) and Little bill. The entire cast has performed really well, with a special mention of Morgan Freeman as Ned Logan. Unforgiven is undoubtedly, a quintessential Western and a must for the fans of the genre.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Unforgiven' is a magnificent piece of film-making, yet a dark and troubling study in violence and machismo... It revels in memorable statements of crudeness and cruelty... Munny sums it up best: "Hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he's got. All he's ever gonna have."

    Aided by Jack N. Green's cinematography and Lennie Niehaus's music, Eastwood gives the film an ensemble portrait of sorrowful beauty...

    Clint Eastwood shows another face of the Old West... He is perfect as the unforgiven, the stone killer, whose eyes are full of brutally painful memories...

    Will Munny (Eastwood) is a retired bad man desperate for the 'whore's gold' to save his shabby farm, two kids, and sick animals in the vast emptiness of the Colorado range... Munny had a monogamous devotion to the wife he'd lost, and is forced to confront his own past no matters how he tries to avoid it...

    Eastwood is supported by some quite outstanding character actors whose performances are impeccable:

    Gene Hackman plays Little Bill Daggett, the town sadistic sheriff who rules with an iron fist, forbidding anyone to carry guns across the town limits... He is a lawman cold as ice, who hates "assassins and men of low character." He also despises reward-chasers and tries to humiliate them, revealing their cowardice and indecision... In his judgment, he declines to punish a crime in a way that the hookers consider appropriate...

    Morgan Freeman plays Ned Logan, Munny's longtime honest partner, who ensures the compassionate balance that keeps his friend from sinking in a self-pitying haze of recklessness and bitterness, but he also launches Will into one of the bloodiest shootout in that untamed place...

    Richard Harris is English Bob, the egotistical gunfighter who desires to leave the hospitality of Big Whiskey behind him... He now lives off his publicity, and is followed everywhere by W. W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek), a writer of books, glamorizing the cover scene for purposes involving the market place...

    Frances Fisher is Strawberry Alice, the outraged brothel's madam, who has raised, with a group of oppressed women she works with, a thousand dollars to anyone who punishes the two attackers who slash her working girl's face...

    Jaimz Woolvett is Schofield Kid, the ignorant young rider who tries to make a name for himself... He shows up at Munny's place offering to split the reward, just for killing a couple of 'no good cowboys.'

    Anthony James is Skinny Dubois, the owner of the bar and brothel, who pays good money for Delilah, and wants compensation...

    Anna Thomson is the 'damaged property,' Delilah, the pretty prostitute whose disfiguration serves as the starting point for the story...

    Nominated for nine Academy Awards and winning four major ones, "Unforgiven" becomes only the third Western ever to win the Best Picture Academy Award after "Cimarron" (1930/31) and "Dances with Wolves" (1990).

    On screen, Eastwood dedicated the film to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, his master directors and professional mentors...
  • uthers-118 December 2005
    I just watched Unforgiven, and I would like to say as a younger film-buff, I appreciate the classics (such as this film), more than most new releases today. Unforgiven takes the sometimes mediocre western genre and introduces the moral questions of life. Eastwood and Freeman are brilliant together, and you can also see their vibrant yet melancholy energy also conveyed in the more recent Million Dollar Baby.

    This film is definitely deserving of it's ranking in the top 250. Although I found the musical score at times a tad soppy, the startling settings will compensate for any loss in that part. As previous users have mentioned, the running time may seem arduous at first, but the gripping action interspersed throughout the film contrasted with the reflective traveling scenes will keep you engaged. 10/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Unforgiven" is arguably Producer/Director/Star Clint Eastwood's best western and perhaps his best film overall. It could be very well his last western (I hope not), and if it is he certainly went out on top.

    In the town of Big Whiskey a couple of cowboys are being "entertained" by the ladies of the local saloon. Suddenly one of the girls Delilah (Anna Thomson) is attacked by one of the men and is cut up and scarred for life. When sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett (Gene Hackman) refuses to suitably punish the men, the "ladies" led by Strawberry Alice (Frances Fisher) pool their funds and post a reward of $1,000 to anyone who will hunt down and kill these men.

    Word of the reward reaches former gunfighter William Munny (Eastwood) who is now a widowed pig farmer with two kids, when a cocky young kid called The Schofield kid rides up to his farm and proposes that they join up as partners. Munny reluctantly agrees and enlists his former partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to join in.

    Word of the reward has also reached other bounty hunters like English Bob (Richard Harris) who arrives in Big Whiskey first. Realizing that he has to discourage such predators, Little Bill brutally beats up the gunfighter and drives him out of town. In the process Little Bill meets a pulp fiction writer named Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) who is writing stories about the gunfighters of the west. Little Bill is only too happy to provide him with such stories.

    Meanwhile the unholy trio arrive in Big Whiskey. Little Bill spots Munny in the saloon while the Kid and Ned are being "entertained" upstairs. Munny has become ill during the trip and Little Bill takes advantage and savagely beats him. The others rescue Munny and take him to safety where the "girls" nurse him back to health. The trio then hunt down and kill the two cowboys during which Ned loses his stomach for such killings and starts out for home.

    Ned is captured by the murdered men's friends and is brought into town where he is "questioned" by Little Bill to the extent that he is killed. Munny who had mellowed during his marriage, loses it, arms himself and heads into town for a showdown where..........

    "Unforgiven" was honored with several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman. Eastwood's performance as the tragic Munny was also of Oscar calorie.

    Its hard to find a hero in this film. Eastwood, Freeman and Woolvett are after all, bounty hunters. By his own admission William Munny describes himself as someone who has killed women and children and just about everything that walks in his lifetime. Hackman's character has good intentions in discouraging the gunfighters but cannot control his hair trigger temper. The only sympathetic characters are the saloon girls as they try to find justice for their dishonored colleague.

    A great western! A great movie!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    To say that this is the best western ever made, or to say that it's Clint Eastwood's best film, would be wrong. Why? Because such droll understatement would be woefully misleading. This film isn't just those merely those things. Unforgiven ranks as one of the greatest films of all time. Period. No delimiters or qualifiers apply. And what follows is my view of this film's place in Hollywood history.

    When John Wayne died in 1979 it was emblematic of the state of the western genre in Hollywood. In fact, Wayne's last film, The Shootist, dwelt on exactly that, and indeed that was what The Shootist was all about: the end of the wild west, the end of westerns in Hollywood, and, of course, the impending demise of John Wayne. Hey, to say these things --to make these statements-- is precisely why they ever took the time and the bother to make The Shootist. So then when the Duke really did die, the keys to Hollywood's westerns kingdom were handed off to Clint Eastwood, a bequeath almost by default. Through the 70s Wayne and Eastwood were just about the only ones left making westerns, and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), his then most recent effort, was arguably Eastwood's best film to date. But Clint deserved receiving those keys, because he had earned them. Clint patiently waited nine years to release his next western, Pale Rider, a homage to the western classic, Shane. In 1985 the general consensus was that Pale Rider was Clint Eastwood's finest film, his defining masterpiece.

    But, as it turned out, Clint wasn't done. Seven years later, in 1992, he released what is now said to be his last western, Unforgiven. And with Unforgiven Clint hits all the classic western themes. I won't belabor retelling the story, because that's been done very well elsewhere in other comments. Nor will I dwell too much on the myriad layering of the characters. I will say that in watching and re-watching and re-watching numerous more times it became quite clear to me that Unforgiven was Clint's labor of love. It's the little things, subtleties, that reveal that truth. Things like the classic cowboy lines that roll off the character's tongues, without a second thought, but which reach deep and stay with you. Too many of those to list, but just read all the other reviews on this site, where they are recounted nicely.

    One striking thing is the implicit irony that the characters, as ostensibly depicted, are to a one exactly opposite of their true nature, or of how they themselves want to be. The Schofield Kid, blustering braggadocio notwithstanding, is no killer. "I ain't like you Will," a chastened Kid says as he departs. And Little Bill Daggett remonstratively represents law, order, and justice, the supposed peace officer keeping the peace, is in truth corrupt and sadistically violent, unable to rise above his own vicious lawlessness. English Bob, the erstwhile cosmopolitan gunslinger, is a fraud and a coward to boot. And William Munney keeps saying he's a changed man, that he "ain't like that anymore." But, oh yeah, he is. The only honest character, the only compassionate character, is Ned Logan. He's the only one who kills no one, because of all of them, he really isn't like that, and yet he is the only one of the hired killers to get killed and to suffer the consequences of being a supposed killer.

    To tell this story that plumbs the depths of human depravity, telling it convincingly, exploring various relative degrees of the human character, holding the requisite feet to the fire, and doing it all tightly in 131 minutes, Clint assembled great cast to work with: Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris. All are marvelous. The film is a masterpiece.

    Is Unforgiven to Eastwood as The Shootist was to Wayne, i.e., his own swan song of sorts? Well, certainly Clint, unlike John Wayne, wasn't dying, but the fact is Clint has never made another western. It appears that he has said all he has to say in that genre, and is finished with it.

    And to the critic poseur who suggests that Dances With Wolves was a slightly better western, puh-leeeeze. Kevin Costner can't carry Clint Eastwood's jock strap, literally or figuratively. At least couldn't back then, at that point in his career. All too often, and certainly in Dances With Wolves, Costner's main attribute is his gargantuan --yet wholly unwarranted-- ego, and a self-absorption that runs amok, chewing scenery and stepping all over everybody else. And Costner's dime store cultural anthropology, while earnest, is laughable. The combination of Costner being Costner, a corn pone and contrived story, and the 4 hour length of the movie is a definite mind number. Dances With Wolves's real value is as a sleep aid. None of which is to say that Kevin Costner did not possess the capacity to make and leave an indelible mark on Hollywood's westerns. He did, and he did. But it wasn't with Dances With Wolves that it happened. In 1993 Costner's career took a fortuitous turn when he worked with Eastwood in the contemporary western, A Perfect World. There Costner learned and showed an ability to sublimate himself into a role, and to keep his egocentric tendencies in check. Immediately following that experience Costner released Wyatt Earp, a better film and a better western than Dances With Wolves. Then, in 2003, Costner, working with Robert Duval, made Open Range, arguably Costner's best work to date, and certainly the best western made since Unforgiven.

    We can all hope that Clint has more westerns in him. If he doesn't, the keys he inherited from John Wayne appear destined for Kevin Costner. Again, by default.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Contains Spoilers

    Who would have thought it? During the eighties, when the cinematic Western was at its lowest ebb, I doubt if anyone could have predicted not only that two of the best films of the early nineties would be Westerns but also that both would go on to win 'Best Picture' at the Academy Awards, something that only one film from this genre had done previously. Yet that is exactly what happened. First came Kevin Costner's 'Dances With Wolves', then Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven'. In both cases the star also acted as director. In Eastwood's case he was returning to the genre in which he first made his name; this was his first Western since 'Pale Rider' eight years earlier, which in turn was his first since 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' eight years before that.

    In 'Unforgiven', Eastwood plays a former gunfighter and robber named William Munny. (Pronounced 'Money'; there seems to be a tradition in Westerns of giving characters surnames which suggest they are for hire. There is Charlton Heston's Will Penny, and in 'Hannie Caulder' Robert Culp plays a hired gunman named Price). In his younger days, Munny was a hardened criminal, but he abandoned his life of crime when he married and settled down to life as a farmer. At the beginning of the film he is a widower, trying to raise two young children on his own. He is tempted to return to his former life, however, when he hears of a bounty of a thousand dollars which a group of prostitutes have placed on the heads of two drunken cowboys who badly injured one of their number by cutting her face with a knife. Abandoning his children to fend for themselves, Munny sets off to try and claim the money. He recruits a former associate, Ned Logan, and they are joined in their quest by a young man who calls himself the Schofield Kid and who is eager to make a name for himself as a gunfighter. They are not, however, the only men in search of the reward; an eccentric Englishman named English Bob, who has won himself an undeserved reputation as a Western hero, is also trying to track the cowboys down.

    The film reminded me of another Western, Michael Winner's 'Lawman' from the early seventies. That film has at its centre a sheriff whose inflexible determination to uphold the letter of the law at all costs leads to tragic consequences. 'Unforgiven' approaches the question of law enforcement from a slightly different angle. A key role is played by Gene Hackman's sheriff, Bill Daggett. Unlike that of Burt Lancaster's character in 'Lawman', Daggett's approach to the law is arbitrary and inconsistent. He can at times uphold the law with savage zeal. He is determined to protect the two cowboys from vigilantism, but in doing so, he transgresses the law himself, dealing out a brutal kicking to English Bob and an even more brutal flogging to Ned which results in the latter's death. Moreover, Daggett has himself created the need for vigilante justice by denying the full protection of the law to the injured prostitute. (The only punishment imposed upon the cowboys is an order to pay compensation to the woman's pimp for the loss of her economic value to him).

    There is, in fact, no character in the film who is entirely sympathetic. Munny starts the film as a reformed character, but slips back into his old ways when he is tempted by the prospect of money. He becomes, to borrow the title of another Eastwood Western, a man prepared to kill for a fistful of dollars. The lack of an easily identifiable hero is a common feature of modern 'revisionist' Westerns. Unlike some such Westerns, however, (Sam Peckinpah's 'The Wild Bunch' is a good example), 'Unforgiven' does not lack a moral centre. The Schofield Kid and English Bob have both been seduced by the dubious mythology of the West. The Kid, as his nickname suggests, is an inexperienced young man, but would like others to see him as a hardened and ruthless killer because he regards killing as something glamorous. Bob takes the credit for acts of violence which are wrongly attributed to him but which in reality he would be too cowardly to commit. Munny, for all his faults, can see Western mythology for what it is. Even when he is setting out to kill for money, he remains uncomfortably aware that "to kill a man, to take all he has and all he's ever gonna have" is a desperately serious business. In Ovid's phrase quoted in the title, he sees the better path, and approves, but follows the worse.

    The first half of the film can be slow-moving, but the second half is gripping, as the death of his friend Ned leads Munny to seek a bloody revenge. As with many Westerns, there are some attractive shots of the local scenery (the film is ostensibly set in Wyoming, but was actually shot in Canada), but the overall tone is a dark, claustrophobic one in keeping with the film's theme. Many scenes are set in gloomy interiors, whether bars, brothels or ranch-houses. One of the villains is actually shot dead in an outside lavatory.

    Of the two great Westerns of the early nineties, I would, marginally, prefer 'Dances with Wolves', which to my mind has a greater epic sweep, but by any other standard 'Unforgiven' is a very fine movie indeed, wonderfully acted, especially by Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Eastwood himself. (Freeman's role is a rare example of a black actor taking a leading role in a Western). It also asks some searching questions about the nature of law and justice, revenge and the roots of violence. It is interesting that Eastwood has not made any films in the Western genre since this one; perhaps he feels that it has set a standard that cannot be surpassed. 9/10
  • After a couple of drunken cowboys cut up a prostitute in the town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming Sheriff 'Little Bill' Daggett decrees that they must give the owner of the brothel a few horses as compensation for lost earnings... the other women do not think this is enough so combine their money and let it be known that they will pay $1,000 to anybody who kills the cowboys. A young man calling himself the 'Schofield Kid' hears of this and approaches retired gunslinger and general ne'er-do-well William Munny proposing that they kill the cowboys for the reward. Munny has renounced his wicked past, thanks to his late wife, but needs the money to raise his two children so reluctantly accepts. Along the way he picks up his old partner Ned Logan.

    In the mythology of the west the sheriff stood up for the downtrodden, the heroes didn't draw first and they certainly didn't have difficulty getting on a horse! That is somewhat different here; our hero was certainly a very bad man in his youth and while he is now a more moral man desperation leads him to kill again. The way the myth and the reality differ are perfectly illustrated during a conversation between Little Bill and a writer working on the biography of a gunslinger when Bill explains what really happened during one particularly famous shootout. We see the West as a cruel place where might is right and the good don't always win. Our 'heroes' don't call out the villains; they ambush them when they least expect it. The story is well presented with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman doing great jobs as old gunmen Munny and Logan. Gene Hackman is equally impressive as Little Bill. There a decent amount of action and even a few genuinely funny moments. Overall I'd say that this is a must see for fans of the Western genre.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm a huge fan of "early" Clint Eastwood (you can see by some of my other reviews) and have seen UNFORGIVEN (1992) several times, but I just can't completely get into this film and don't think it's a masterpiece, as with several of his other films that he has starred in and/or directed (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, DIRTY HARRY, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, and the criminally underrated elegiac A PERFECT WORLD). Also, there are several other "lesser" other Eastwood works that I'd pop into the DVD player before this one, ones that I find to be provocative, immensely entertaining, or re-watchable or all of the above (HANG EM HIGH, THE GAUNTLET, THE ENFORCER, SUDDEN IMPACT, TIGHTROPE).

    With UNFORGIVEN, I think a recurring word I find when I watch it is "monotony". At the end of the day, I think everything is too one-dimensional. On repeated viewings, I find nothing really deep or provocative about this film. I don't pick up on anything. It's a well-made, professional film with decent-to-good acting, but that's about it. The only 2 characters that I find to be interesting are the ones played by Gene Hackman (Little Bill Daggett) and Richard Harris (English Bob). Everyone else just is kind of "there". Not to mention that virtually all the characters seem like the SAME person! There is no uniqueness about any of them.

    Save for Daggett and Little Bill, they all have the same mannerisms, mood, and tone. I've seen many so-called "lesser" films with better developed, written, and performed characters that allowed me to latch onto the film the more and more I watched it. With UNFORGIVEN, these characters (and there are tons of them) fall way too flat. Examples: The scene where Munny, the Kid (played by Jamie Woolvett), and the (totally unnecessary!) Morgan Freeman character track down the first of the 2 men they are to kill is totally devoid of real emotion and resonance. I feel nothing when watching this scene. The acting by all involved is strangely similar (Freeman ironically being the weakest link in this scene). Eastwood did Freeman no favors by casting him in this film. Seems like stunt, friendship casting as far as I'm concerned.

    Eastwood (as former vicious killer, but now reformed family man William Munny) strangely evokes very little as the lead. It is hard to buy that this man was once a vicious killer simply because Eastwood gives himself the same singular tone as most of the rest of the cast. Then all of a sudden at the end he is a badass again. I think the intent was right, but the execution (pardon the pun!) is rather unbelievable. This ending scene is in it's own right pretty spectacular as it demystifies the mythology of gunslinging that so many films before (ironiclly including many early Eastwood Westerns) had glamourized and I find it (and the Daggett-English Bob scenes) to be the only good ones.

    At the end of the day, a great film ought to draw you in, not push you away. UNFORGIVEN, sadly, does the latter.
  • Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" is a nod to the old spaghetti westerns from the sixties and seventies, such as "The Dollars Trilogy" by Sergio Leone, the very films that made Eastwood a major Hollywood player. But this one is more touchy than the others--it features a character who may be The Man with No Name (a.k.a. Blondie) thirty years after we saw him ride away at the end of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." This particular man is filled with guilt trailing him from his past, when he was a gunslinging drunkard made infamous throughout the west as a brutal killer. Now he's older and a retired cowboy--he lives with his two children in the middle of nowhere as a farmer. His name is William Munny.

    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.
  • Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman play two retired wild west bounty hunters, back in their saddles to chase one last bounty after decades of silence. Agonizingly slow, its two leads take their sweet time collecting their belongings, mounting their horses and trotting at a leisurely pace across state lines, sharing less than a few sentences along the way. We gather that Eastwood was a shady character in his day, reformed by the love of a deceased wife, but he seems more like a caged animal than a redeemed spirit and we're never given much reason to pull for him despite the presumed change of heart. Though his beloved bride's spirit lives on in the couple's two young children, he barely acknowledges their presence before leaving them on their own for a month to randomly hunt a new bounty. Freeman tries to drag some character development out of him on the trail, but Eastwood holds onto it with an icy grip and piercing eyes, and there we sit for the rest of the picture. Gene Hackman is noteworthy for his portrayal of a smarmy, cocky town sheriff with a chip on his shoulder, but on every other count this is a western that misses with each squeeze of the trigger. Despite a few beautiful panoramas, the world feels stiflingly tight and compressed. Outside of Hackman, there's no fire and passion in the cast, even when Eastwood turns the page and transgresses to his wilder young persona. Finally, the atmosphere, crucial to all films of the genre, feels too clean and polished where it should be gritty and dirty. Much as I would have loved to see Clint don that familiar parka and revisit the days of his Sergio Leon sunrise, it's just not happening here.
  • I have heard much about this film, about how it is the greatest western ever made, etc, etc. Well what a load of codswallop!! Although a fine film and a well made western, it is by far and away not the best western ever made. There are far more deserving westerns made many years ago.

    I think the reason that this film got this response was because many modern audiences havent seen older westerns, it was seen as Eastwood returning to westerns by critics and the revered nature at which many of the cast are held in provoke an emotional rather than independent response (Eastwood, Hackman, Freeman).
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