This week, since there’s nothing really good at the cinema, I decided to re-watch one of my favorite films of all time–the 1992 Deconstruction of Westerns and Best Picture Oscar Winner, Unforgiven. Since I could not heavily recommend this movie enough to people, I’m going to mark all spoilers and do them tvtropes style, so if you want them spoiled, you gotta highlight them.
Unforgiven is about ex-outlaw-turned unsuccessful farmer William Munny (Clint Eastwood, who also directs) who takes on one last job to try and scrounge up some money for his kids. He and his old friend Ned (Morgan Freeman) go after a bounty put out by some prostitutes in the town of Big Whiskey on a customer who cut up one prostitute’s face. Meanwhile, Sheriff Bill Dagget (Gene Hackman) ruthlessly tries to keep order in the town as multiple bounty hunters show up to claim the money–including affable, British bounty hunter English Bob (played by the late Richard Harris, the first Dumbledore).
The film is absolutely incredible; it is probably the best western ever made and I will go on to say one of the best films I have ever seen. As a huge fan of westerns, to see such a brutal deconstruction of the genre, especially by a man who spent half of his life MAKING westerns, is so brutally fresh. It de-romanticizes the west and the bounty hunter gunslinger character. The movie is brutal, visceral, unforgiving, and absolutely fantastic from start to finish. You name a trope and this movie subverts and deconstructs it:
–Quick-draws? Little Bill says that accuracy trumps speed in a real gunfight- true in that revolvers at the time were still terribly inaccurate and also that fanning a revolver, while it puts a lot of rounds down range, has little probability of hitting anything. SPOILERS! HIGLIGHT TO READ! This is shown in the final shootout at the saloon in the film where all of Little Bill’s men shoot at William wildly in panic and miss every single shot while William calmly and cooly guns down every man. END SPOILERS Though William says that it’s mainly just luck.
–Bad-ass One-liners? Talked about by English Bob, who pads all of his adventures to sound dramatic an awesome–including badass pre-mortem one-liners. But it turns out that English Bob in reality often shoots first and in the back. SPOILERS! HIGLIGHT TO READ! When William guns down Little Bill and all of his men and moves in to finish the Sheriff off, Little Bill spits out “I’ll see you in hell, William Munny.” And all that Will grumbles back is “yeah…” Though he does get a slight one-liner just prior when the usually stoic Bill panics about his life: “I don’t deserve this… to die like this. I was building a house.” To which William replies “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”END SPOILERS
–Bad-ass Gunslingers? The whole movie depicts the famous archetype of the gunslinger as a cold-blooded, horrific bastard. Wannabe bounty hunter “The Schofield Kid” gets his first taste of action when he murders a man who’s sitting on the crapper and soon breaks down emotionally. Sobbing to himself that the cowboys “had it coming.” To which Munny corrects, “we all have it coming, kid.” The whole point of the film is that you’d have to be pretty crazy or cold-blooded to work as a gunslinger.
The film is amazing from start to finish and leaves me speechless every single time I watch it. It’s dark and brutal, but not so much that you’d turn it off or not want to watch it again–there is a light at the end of the tunnel/story. It’s also a very quotable movie where Old Man Clint Eastwood gets to show off his chops as a real anti-hero (almost straight up villain protagonist). He’s badass yet terrifying at the same time.
“That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.” –William Munny
I partially reviewed this film because the first trailer was revealed for an upcoming remake of Unforgiven, set in late feudal japan and starring Ken Watanabe. I’m super excited to see it.
Overall, if you like westerns, or really even movies in general (and you’re not too bothered by violence), you owe it to yourself to go check this one out. It is superbly acted, directed, and written (the same writer as 12 Monkeys and Blade Runner, David Peoples).
Next week I’ll be doing another older film from Luc Besson, the director of The Fifth Element, The Transporter, and Lockout. Leon: The Professional, starring Jean Reno and 11 year-old Natalie Portman.
Meanwhile, be sure to check out my science column: Trope-ic Thunder
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