Classic Film Review: Unforgiven (1992)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Unforgiven, 1992

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris

 

Recently Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth became the first two actors on this series to appear together in two Oscar-winning films (Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech). Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman now join that list (Million Dollar Baby and Unforgiven). This is also the first time in this series where a director has two entries (Clint Eastwood also directed Million Dollar Baby).

Unforgiven is a Western film (Clint Eastwood’s final) about a retired outlaw (if retired is the right word), William Munny (Clint Eastwood) and his return to being an outlaw for one final time. In a brothel a prostitute’s face is cut several times by a disgruntled customer, who, as punishment, is ordered to hand over five horses to the brothel’s owner. Incensed by this, the prostitutes place a $1,000 bounty on the cowboys, Quick Mike (David Mucci) and ‘Davey-Boy’ Bunting (Rob Campbell). A bounty that the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) decides to earn by recruiting William Munny and his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and heading over to Big Whiskey.

As expected by a film starring Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman the acting overall is very good. Eastwood and Freeman’s portrayal of former outlaws-turned-innocent civilians is very good. They convey the right emotion as men who haven’t killed in over 10 years, and how tough it is to return. The Schofield Kid is also a nice counter to their character in that he hasn’t killed anyone (despite his lies) and his innocence compared with Munny and Logan’s emotional battle makes for nice camaraderie between the three.

Acting aside, though, one issue with this film is its inclusions of parts which don’t serve a larger storyline. At one point English Bob (Richard Harris, Gladiator), another outlaw ready to claim on the bounty, arrives and is beaten by Little Bill (Gene Hackman), the local Sheriff. This is to serve as a warning against anyone coming to claim on the bounty, but English Bob and his beating never reaches our three protagonists. They don’t see him nor hear of the attack or warning from the Sheriff, so it’s weird that it’s included. They also spend a lot of time with English Bob and Little Bill in the police station discussing a previous fight; this takes up a huge chunk of time and with it providing nothing to the plot overall it seems like wasted time. Also there’s a slight spark of romance between Munny and a prostitute (the one with the cut-up face), which, again, doesn’t go anywhere. He rejects her sexual advances due to his deceased wife, and she respects that and talks about him to the brothel girls later on but nothing comes of it. Munny’s character also changes dramatically upon hearing some bad news and this is done so quickly you can almost miss the significance of it.

Described as an anti-western, with the lines between good and evil divided (we’re cheering on an outlaw who’s going up against a town Sheriff), we’re not given the traditional and stereotypical shooting contest you come to expect from a Western. Instead the final shooting scene doesn’t take up much time in the grand scheme of the film.

A nicely paced Western with some fantastic acting, but Unforgiven has a few criticisable traits to it. Scenes which don’t serve a purpose to the film, a remarkably short shooting contest, hints of romance with no follow-up and some major dramatic character changes which seem glossed over. A fantastic film overall, but certainly one not without flaws.

 

Plot: * *

Acting: * * * *

Writing: * * * *

Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating:  * * * ½

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