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Unforgiven
BLU-RAY disk
03.09.2012 By: Chris Bumbray
Unforgiven order download
Director:
Clint Eastwood

Actors:
Clint Eastwood
Gene Hackman
Morgan Freeman
Richard Harris

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
William Munny (Clint Eastwood); a retired gunman, now a widower eking out a living as a hog farmer, is convinced by a young gunslinger to accept a $1000 contract for the lives of two cowboys who disfigured a prostitute. To help him out, Munny brings along his old friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) - and they ride to Big Whiskey, Wyoming to carry out the job. Unbeknownst to them, the sadistic town sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman) gets wind of the bounty, and vows to kill anyone looking to enter his town and collect.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
If ever Clint Eastwood had a lull in his storied career, it was probably in the late eighties/early nineties. While BIRD, and WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART were well received critically, both gushed money at the box office. Making matters worse, the commercial films Eastwood took on to get these films made started underperforming, with both PINK CADILLAC and THE ROOKIE being major box-office disasters (although I contend that THE ROOKIE is a misunderstood classic- with it being a particularly insightful satire of the type of crazy- rogue cop action flicks so popular in that time).

Rather than give up and churn out another Dirty Harry, Eastwood made the wise decision to reexamine an old script he had been sitting on for years called ‘The Cut-Whore Killings’. For Eastwood, who was now in his sixties, UNFORGIVEN would be his last word on the genre that made him a star- the western. Most of Eastwood’s own westerns (the ones he directed) embraced a certain mysticism- most evident in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and PALE RIDER, with him being a supernatural, ghostly figure. UNFORGIVEN was more akin to his OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, with this taking a long, hard look at the human toll a life of violence takes on the soul. However, he took it one step further here, with his William Munny being the kind of badman a guy like Josey Wales would have gunned down in a second.

In his old age, Munny is a truly repentant soul, and only takes on the bounty in order to provide a new start for his kids. Eastwood’s performance as Munny is one of his best, being the most complicated character he’s ever played. Munny is no superman, nor is he particularly clever or brave. He’s just a punk that’s grown up, and realized how stupid he was in his youth. Freeman, as his partner Ned is similarly good, with him having been the cooler, more evenhanded part of their gang- but unlike Munny, he proves to be even more of a changed man in his old age- with a scene late in the film showing his utter agony as he attempts to take a life.

Rounding out the trio of stars is Gene Hackman as Little Bill, and you’ve got to hand it to Eastwood for giving the film’s best role to Hackman. A complicated guy, Hackman is at times a likable, funny guy- but is capable of turning into a sadistic killer at the drop of a hat, such as the unsettling scene where he entertains and then threatens a visiting Old West biographer (Saul Rubinek). Hackman won the Oscar for this, and it’s easy to see why.

In addition to giving the juiciest role to Hackman, Eastwood made another interesting choice in having UNFORGIVEN, rather than focus on his character, into more of an ensemble piece- capable of going off an colorful asides, such as the English Bob subplot, where a gentlemanly English gunslinger runs afoul of Hackman- who objects to the way he’s been turned into a cult hero- while he knows him to be a gutless killer.

THE EXTRAS
This Blu-Ray book edition of UNFORGIVEN doesn’t really give us anything we haven’t seen before- although it’s a decent package. The main extra is Eastwood on Eastwood an hour-long doc from back around the time of MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL that take a comprehensive (for the time- as this is from ’97, and Eastwood’s career as a director has, if anything, gotten even bigger since) look at his career. One of the clips is from Eastwood’s early role as the bad guy of the week from MAVERICK - and that episode is actually included here as an extra.

Next up is a short featurette hosted by Morgan Freeman looking at UNFORGIVEN’s legacy- featuring interviews with Eastwood and Hackman. There’s also an EPK from 1992 included, which is a fun watch, as it has lots of great on-set footage featuring Eastwood clowning around with Freeman and Hackman (apparently, while the film is harsh, the set was actually a fun place to be). There’s also a 10 min vintage highlight reel from Eastwood’s career- which is hopelessly out of date considering all he’s been up to lately. Finally, there’s the trailer .
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
UNFORGIVEN ended up being a major comeback for Eastwood, with it making big-bucks at the box office- and his career has rarely hit a slump since. Most importantly, it also won a saddlebag full of Oscars, and Eastwood’s elegiac, harshly realistic look at the old west- stripped of its mythology, inspired a new wave of westerns, including such recent films as THE ASSASINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, THE PROPOSITION and the HBO series DEADWOOD. It’s a landmark film, and an obvious must-purchase.
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8:57AM on 03/11/2012
Great review of one of the best films ever. Wonderful characters played by a perfect cast... and the cinematography is so good.
Great review of one of the best films ever. Wonderful characters played by a perfect cast... and the cinematography is so good.
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2:01PM on 03/09/2012
awesome review
awesome review
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+1
1:43PM on 03/09/2012
Easily one of my favorite movies. Nice review.
Easily one of my favorite movies. Nice review.
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