Friday, June 11, 2010

No. 98: Unforgiven

Unforgiven (1992)

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman

Director: Clint Eastwood

Awards: Four Oscars, including Best Picture

When I was younger, my Papa Murray and I always played a lot of cards. Gin Rummy, Crazy Eights, Blackjack, and numerous types of Poker – with betting! We’d settle down on the closest couch, flip on the TV to whatever movie looked best, and prepare for some intense games of cards. There was only one problem; I was a newbie at cards, and it took me a long time to figure out what I was doing. So while I spent twenty minutes looking at one card, Papa would occasionally take a nap. One time, he accidentally hit the remote as he dozed off. It flipped to HBO. Deadwood. In my shocked seven-year-old state, I didn’t know how to change the channel. So I sat there, wide-eyed and slack-jawed at the violence and blood on the screen. Eventually, my mom came in and rescued me from the horrors, but I still treasure the now-funny memory today!

For a long time, the bad experience with Deadwood scared me away from watching Westerns. Unforgiven, our 98th AFI movie, is extremely and gratuitously violent, but is also quite gorgeous.

Things aren’t going well for William Munny (Eastwood), a retired ex-drunk gunslinger. He’s recruited for one last job, to kill two cowboys who disfigured a prostitute’s face. He recruits his old partner Ned Logan (Freeman), and they set off for Big Whiskey, Wyoming. There, they clash with the lunatic Sheriff (Hackman), and eventually kill the cowboys. Logan leaves, but is captured by the Sheriff and beaten to death. Munny is left alone to take his revenge on the Sheriff: in a now-iconic scene, he walks into the bar where Sheriff & Co. are waiting, and single-handedly shoots down the entire law enforcement department of Big Whiskey.

Analysis time… Hmmm. There was a lot I did like about Unforgiven, and not too much that I didn’t. This isn’t the sort of movie I usually watch, because I’m a wimp when it comes to blood and gore, but I actually liked it. Outside of the scenes with extreme violence, it was quite enjoyable. Certain scenes stick with you, like the one where Munny learns the Sheriff has killed Logan, and sets off to take his revenge.

Munny’s personal story is what makes the movie so gripping. His late wife worked hard to reform his alcoholic and killing ways, and he’s convinced that he can stay that way. But when Logan is killed, he takes his first drink in 10 years, and quickly reverts to his old ways. Is he really a heartless killer? Well, that’s the question. In some scenes, he’s as sweet and caring as a tough old cowboy can be; but in others, he’s a ruthless killing machine. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

In short, if you like:

* Lotsa violence

* Clint Eastwood as a killing machine

* Gorgeous cinematography

* Morgan Freeman

* Morgan Freeman’s voice

* The Old West

…then you’ll love Unforgiven. If you don’t like any of those, this might not be the movie for you… but watch it anyway. It’s quite good, you know. Some people seem to like it.

Movie No. 97, Bringing Up Baby (1938), coming up next. One of my favorite Katharine Hepburn comedies, plus Cary Grant and two leopards, so stick around and read about it!


  1. I love your summer project. Thanks for watching & reviewing Unforgiven, I wish I could see it but the gore factor is too great - I'll stick with the leopards!

  2. Nice, fresh take on Unforgiven!

    Besides the violence, I think what bothered me at the time was the portrayal of women. As I recall, the wives were unsympathetic or undeveloped characters. Meanwhile the stereotypical "prostitute(s) with a heart of gold"-types strained my credibility. But that's a minor part of the film.

    My son (who was in college when we saw it) convinced me that Unforgiven was Clint Eastwood's apology for having made those unrealistic spaghetti westerns earlier in his career. So I can appreciate that!

  3. Deadwood was one of my favorite series and I was heartbroken when it ended. (I even bought the DVD's)

    It is not, however, suitable for a seven year old. Yeah Mom to the rescue!

    I also loved this movie and had forgotten about it until this review. Fantastic summary of the moral struggle when revenge is involved.