WWTW Rewind – ‘Unforgiven’ (1992)

WWTW Rewind – ‘Unforgiven’ (1992)


The second stage of Clint Eastwood’s career – call it his Mea Culpa Tour – began in 1992 with “Unforgiven.”

The celebrated western found The Man With No Name paying the price for all those cinematic killings

But Eastwood was smart enough to wrap those misgivings in a terrific yarn, and even smarter to cast Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman in critical roles.

Oscar glory soon followed, and suddenly Eastwood’s brand became synonymous with award show buzz.

Eastwood stars as Bill Munny, a former gunfighter reduced to wrestling pigs on his modest farm. He stopped killing people years ago, and he doesn’t even touch the bottle like he once did.

But an offer to do a quick killing for a quicker payday is too much to resist. So he re-teams with his old partner Ned (Freeman) and sets out for the hunt. Their paths end up crossing Sheriff Daggett (Hackman, earning an Oscar for his troubles), a lawman with an ego too big for any two-bit town

Bill and Ned aren’t proud of their past, and no horse is hearty enough to ride them past their misdeeds. But right is right, and the actions of the dastardly sheriff and the men he shields from the law must be addressed.

The revisionist western embraces and explodes the genre’s mythos with remarkable grace, and there’s enough conventional action to please fans of Eastwood’s earlier, grittier films.

“Unforgiven” even finds time to introduce English Bob (Richard Harris) a famed gunslinger whose presence adds even more color and texture to a film already overloaded with both.

“Unforgiven” allowed Eastwood to begin aging gracefully on screen, embracing characters who acknowledged the passing of time but still mattered. It’s a journey that continues through today, even as the actor/director nears his 80th birthday.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

JimmyCNo Gravatar April 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm

It was a great film, but I for one am sick and tired of “revisionist Westerns”. Just make a freaking Western and quit trying to modernize it already. That’s why Open Range and the 3:10 to Yuma remake worked so well.

GrofeNo Gravatar April 30, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Agreed. I LOVE Unforgiven. Hackman and Freeman are perfectly cast as Eastwood begins a phase in his career that will later bring us Gran Torino. I never saw ‘Flags of our Fathers,’ mainly because of the negative buzz but Clint Eastwood is an American legend. And, isn’t great that we’re all around to see what he does next?

cftotoNo Gravatar April 30, 2009 at 8:22 pm

The western may be on life support as a genre, but as long as we get the occasional Open Range or 3:10 to Yuma (or TV’s Broken Trail) I’m ok with it.

James FrazierNo Gravatar May 1, 2009 at 2:19 am

I wrote a review of this for the uni paper a month or so ago. Would make a really great movie for a film or college English class.

DagnabbittNo Gravatar May 2, 2009 at 4:40 am

I concur that “Revisionist Western” now is hackneyed – as well as loaded, as entertainment adjectives often are. The film remains an excellent *Western,* nearly two decades later (and add TV’s “Lonesome Dove” to your short-list of exemplary forms of the genre, T).

~ Dagnabbitt

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