the movie is very drab and dreary, with a sense of yearning that aches the heart to look
at it too long. That siad, it's also one of the greatest Westerns ever made, and a bona
fide figurehead to Eastwood's already golden crown of a carreer.
Eastwood stars a William Munney, who was once one of the most fearsome and terrible
killers in the West. "I've killed women and children. I've killed everything that walks or
crawls at one time or another," Munney growls at one point. But something happend.
Munney met a girl, fell in love, and decided that he had lived enough violence, and that
maybe it was time to settle down. He goes somewhere far away, where his reputation
isn't as prolific, starts a pig farm, raises some kids. He loses his wife to sickness, but he
continues to live in the hope that maybe he can redeem himself of his sins with his life
as a normal man.
All that comes crashing to a halt when a young gunslinger comes to Munney with a
proposition, a kill-for-hire job by a nearby town's bordello. Seems that some men came
in and cut up one of the house prostitutes, and the women there are not pleased with
the manner in which Little Bill Dagget (Gene Hackman, in an Oscar-winning
performance), the town sherriff, handled the matter (he threatened to whip them and
settled on a payment of horses to the owner of the bar). Reluctantly, but desperate for
the money, Munney straps on his guns one last time to return to a life he'd sworn he'd
Along the way, he recruits his old riding buddy, Ned Logan (the always dependable
Morgan Freeman) to join him on the mission. Logan used to be like Munney as well,
although his conscience gave out earlier than Munney's did, and as a result of these two
weathered old men saddleing up again spend much of their time hunched over a
campfire, wondering why it is that the deeds of their past life never seems to really die.
It's a poignent moment in the film when Eastwood startles from a dream, gasping for
breath, scared for the first time of dying. Many view this film as Eastwood's own
epilouge to his famous Man With No Name trilogy, where he played a ruthless and
efficient killer who was fearless in the face of overwhelming odds, and that comparison
seems fitting. Here, we see the Man With No Name as we were never allowed to see him
before in Leone's pulpy films-- his name revealed, his misdeeds on display, his body
and will weak and fragile. The years of violence and murder have taken their toll on this
man, and despite his best efforts to shed that role, to start anew, Munney remains, at
hear, a cold-blooded killer.
Here is where the film really takes on a whole new level-- the examination of what
makes a killer a killer, and if one can ever really be rid of the demons of the past. The
answer given here isn't neccessarily a pleasent one, or even the right one, but it's the
most suiting for this one man we're seeing, a man who can only rest peacefully at night
after he comes to terms with what he truely is, and comes to terms with it. Whether
William Munney is Unforgiven or not really the message of the movie-- it's the
acceptance of who you are by nature, and living with the consequences. The entire time
Munney is working his pig farm, he's living a lie-- he knows it, we as an audiance knows
it, but it's a lie he was willing to live for the woman he loved. Unfortunatly, the world
doesn't work like that, and munney must confront his past no matter how he tries to
The acting in this movie is superb, a real testament to the power of the Western genre,
which is the template for America's own mythology. Here, Eastwood both revitalized and
redefined the genre of the Western, after many had declared the subject dead. By taking
a dark, gritty, no-holds-barred approach to the formerly old-fashioned tale of a
gunslinger's last ride, Eastwood spins a story that is both mesmerizing and
heartbreaking to watch at the same time.
As Eastwood's tribute to the genre that introduced him to fame, the film is dedicated to
"Sergio & Don"-- Leone and Sigel, respectivly, the two directors that gave the world
much of Clint's best early work. As a movie that serves as the swansong for that kind of
film cowboy, no other dedication could be more fitting.
Rated R for violence and language.
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