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Unforgiven (SE)
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Unforgiven (SE) order
Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood
Gene Hackman
Morgan Freeman


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Desperate for money, two retired, aging bounty killers (Eastwood and Freeman) set off on a trail along with a young up and comer (Jaimz Woolvett). The bounty, offered up by a group of whores who've seen one of theirs get cut up by a rancher becomes a sore point with the town's sheriff who vows to drive off anyone who comes to collect it, in order to keep trouble out of his town.
"It's a helluva thing to kill a man... you take away all he's got, and all he'll ever have..." I remember sitting in a dark theater ten years ago hearing Eastwood speak these words after a particularly violent gunfight. To this day they still strike me as some of the wisest and most meaningful words I've heard on film and they were a perfect fit in this incredible film. Almost forty years into a career that had reinvented the western, reinvented the police drama and created an almost godlike aura around himself as one of Hollywood's all-time biggest stars, Eastwood once again struck gold with his most revealing and riveting effort yet. No longer was his character's strength made up of his pinpoint aim or his huge-barreled gun, but mostly of a conflicted humanity, treading a fine line between redemption and a descent into Hell.

Eastwood's directorial masterpiece, populated with such luminaries as Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris and recipient of the 1992 Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor (Hackman) remains a film that could rip emotions out of a rock and one that is as disturbing and haunting as it is entertaining. It's also one of those rare films without a hero, where every character is as ambivalent about good vs. evil as they are about the value of life and death. Eastwood's character, William Munny is a "recovering" murderer, free of the effects of the whisky and the demons that made him one of the most bloodthirsty killers in the west and yet we feel for him. Hackman is Little Bill Daggett, a ruthless sheriff who enforces the law with the crack of a whip, the butt of his gun and the heel of his boot. He seeks justice and yet we hate him. These two, the main protagonists in the story and two legends of the gun-slinging west butt heads as a consequence of bounty money handed out by a pack of whores. Hardly your everyday movie heroes and yet you develop an understanding of the motives of both men. Even the merciless killer English Bob (played by Harris) manages to elicit some sympathy, as does Munny's partner Ned, himself a former bounty killer and now a quiet village farmer. Although extremely violent in both a physical and emotional way, the film does carry a strong anti-violence theme throughout.

The movie is also beautiful, with Eastwood making the most out of the scenic Wyoming setting (although most of the film was shot in Alberta, Canada). Great panoramic views and dark, gloomy sets give the movie a strange feel. If it was possible to create claustrophobia in large spaces, it would feel somewhat the way this film looks. The low-key score by Lennie Niehaus (who's worked on over a dozen Eastwood projects) is a perfect fit with the calmness of the film (Eastwood himself, an accomplished musician, composed the very engaging opening theme). This is definitely not your typical shoot 'em up western with a high body count and cowboys falling over the saloon rail. The people in this film seem real. Each punch seems to hurt, each bullet is fired to kill and each word is spoken with meaning. A western where the foundation is a great script? From a man who has brought revolution to more than one genre of film, we should hardly be surprised by this glorious rebirth of the genre.
Eastwood, Eastwood and a little bit more Eastwood. That's what you get on this DVD. You can even add a little bit more Eastwood on it if you want. As you'd expect from a film like this and for a man of Eastwood's class, this DVD is not packed with filler material, stunt featurettes and studio promos. It has some real content for true fans of both his career and of the film that stands as one of its crowning achievements. Let us begin the, this humble analysis of the special features...


Feature length commentary by Time Magazine film critic and Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel: When I learned that the commentary track on the film would be done by a biographer or "historian", I hoped for only one thing: that it would not become a tidbits & trivia thing. Although I do enjoy that, I find it's more suited for popcorn stuff and sci-fi than for an epic western such as UNFORGIVEN. It's the kind of film I usually like to keep at a certain distance to better appreciate it's feel without getting into nitpicking details. Fortunately, Schickel discusses mostly the story itself and is of great help in developing the characters further. He acts as a sort of guide to the film and since he was present on the shoot, he also adds a bit about the filming experience. He's a pretty interesting fellow describing a very interesting film. Quite a good commentary for any fan.

"Eastwood out West" (text): A text history of Eastwood's evolution in and of the western genre from his debut as the mysterious Man With No Name to his confirmation, with UNFORGIVEN, as one of filmdom's greatest and most influential icons.

Awards (text): A four page text listing of the awards scooped up by the film, its cast and its crew.

Theatrical trailer (2:00): The original 1992 theatrical trailer. You'll notice it makes the film look a bit more "actionny" than it really is, probably to draw traditional western fans. It's a bit disappointing considering the depth of the film.


"All on accounta pullin' a trigger" (20:00): A very informative documentary featuring comments by Eastwood, Freeman, Hackman, David Webb Peoples (writer) and Joel Cox (editor), all discussing and exploring the complexity of the characters and the story. Most interesting, if only because of the weight these guys throw around. These three actors aren't exactly Hollywood nobodies and they've seen things many actors will never see again. Their words carry some serious pounds and listening to them is a treat.

"Eastwood & Co.: making Unforgiven" (20:00): Very neat on-set documentary of the film's shoot on a scratch-built western town set in Alberta, Canada. Like I said before, this is not the kind of film I like to get to know in-depth from a behind-the-scenes point of view but this documentary does well in not revealing so much that it would taint any future viewings. It does however feature some real information rather than studio-promo stuff and focuses mainly on Eastwood's direction role. It shows some of the actors acting and commenting on the shot, some of the technical aspects such as the elaborate set and even someone playing a practical joke on Clint by slipping a hamburger in his bed. Would you put a sandwich under Dirty Harry's pillow? If so, you have more guts than I do.

"Eastwood... A Star" (15:00): Although some of the info is a bit rehashed from the previous documentary, this one does a good job of tracking the man's storied career. From digging backyard pools to playing young cowboy punks in the fifties to becoming a Hollywood immortal, Eastwood's career is one worth hearing about.

"Eastwood on Eastwood" (60:00): A one-hour long feature in which Eastwood himself leads us through his filmography, taking the opportunity to underline some of his favorite roles which are often some of the most obscure ones that mainstream fans may not be aware of. He also takes the appropriate time to underline the influence that two great directors, Sergio Leon and Don Siegel (both of which to whom UNFORGIVEN is dedicated) had on both his acting and directing. For those who just came back from that century-long mission to mars, Leone was the man who gave Eastwood stardom with his Great Spaghetti western and Siegel was the man who gave him superstardom with Dirty Harry in 1971. This contains almost everything the real Eastwood fans needs to know, and straight from Harry himself.

"Maverick: Duel at Sundown" (50:00): This is a 1959 episode of James Garner's series Maverick, featuring a very young Eastwood as a rowdy gunslinger. Far from being as polished as he's become, Eastwood still displays the on-screen charm that lead hi where he is today. The fact that James Garner is also involved isn't a bad thing either. Both these guys rock.
A modern day western classic with a very informative and complete DVD package. I won't even waste your time giving you reasons why you should buy this, if you haven't figured it out by reading my review, you probably need emergency CPR so just go out and do it.
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