Unforgiven (DVD, 2002, 2-Disc Set, Two Disc Special Edition) Reviews
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Unforgiven (DVD, 2002, 2-Disc Set, Two Disc Special Edition)

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I'm Only in it for the Money: Unforgiven

Oct 26, 2001 (Updated Jan 22, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Direction, Eastwood, Hackman, Freeman, Harris, Script, Supporting Cast

Cons:None

The Bottom Line: Actor/Director Clint Eastwood provides a film experience equal to the best of John Ford or Sam Peckinpah. Nuff said!


"It's a hell of a thing to kill a man. You take away everything he's got, and everything he's ever going to have." William Munny

Hollywood has produced many Westerns; a few have crossed the line from entertainment to greatness. Unforgiven is one of these.

Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood's finest achievement to date, deserves to stand proudly in the ranks of the timeless classics like The Searchers, Red River, The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country, and The Gunfight at OK Corral.

Like John Wayne, the colossus of the Western genre, Clint Eastwood has learned how to grow old gracefully. From his early Western persona in Rawhide and spaghetti westerns he has matured and come to terms with his strengths and limitations as an actor. As John Wayne played more vulnerable, yet more interesting characters like Rooster Cogburn and J. B. Books toward the end of his career, Clint Eastwood has essayed William Munny, a flawed hero, yet richer textured than any role he has played in the past.

The film describes the protagonist as "William Munny, a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition," but the William Munny we first see is a widower, a father, and a dirt poor pig farmer trying to make ends meet. Munny credits his late wife with taking him away from the whiskey and wickedness and making a better man of him.

A young braggart, styling himself the Schofield Kid after his big Smith and Wesson revolver, brings Munny the news of a gigantic reward for the heads of a pair of hombres who "cut a wh°re" up in Big Whiskey, Wyoming - a one-horse town whose most prominent feature may well be its house of delights. Munny demurs, but reconsiders after the kid has ridden on. After all, a thousand dollars is a lot of money in anybody's language. Leaving his two kids to fend for themselves, Munny makes several unsuccessful attempts to mount his horse, providing a bit of comedy. Finally astride his trusty mount, he rides to the spread of his ole pardner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). Ned agrees to ride with him and the two set off to catch up with the Kid…

Meanwhile, the prostitutes have been spreading the word about the reward and hardcases are heading for Big Whisky like ants to a picnic…

At this point the film introduces English Bob (Richard Harris), a prototypical gunfighter dandy, one of the multitude of ne'er-do-wells converging on the $1,000 reward. In Big Whiskey, Bob runs afoul of Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), who quickly shows the obnoxious Englishman who's the law. As the story progresses, we see that Little Bill likes his work a little too much…

And so the story goes, with a number of surprising discoveries, and a violent ending that confirms what you suspected all along: You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Eastwood as director has made a masterpiece. Working with screenplay by David Webb Peoples, Eastwood has kept the pacing deliberate yet interesting with never a misfire or plod. Eastwood uses a vacuous dime novel author (Saul Rubinek) as a plot device to hold forth on a number of long-held Western beliefs through a brilliant soliloquy by Little Bill (Gene Hackman). Munny's own character undergoes a transformation before your very eyes, from his very first sip of whiskey. The denouement is unexpected, in real time, and totally straightforward and believable. Watch Eastwood's eyes.

This is the best Clint Eastwood movie so far, it really transcends the Western genre becoming an essay on men's characters and the possibility of reformation and redemption.

Other movies recommended for Clint Eastwood fans are

High Plains Drifter

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Pale Rider

Happy viewing!


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