Dedicated to his mentors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winner examines the mythic violence of the Western, taking on the ghosts of his own star past. Disgusted by Sheriff "Little Bill" Daggett's decree that several ponies make up for a cowhand's slashing a whore's face, Big Whiskey prostitutes, led by fierce Strawberry Alice (Frances Fisher), take justice into their own hands and put a $1000 bounty on the lives of the perpetrators. Notorious outlaw-turned-hog farmer William Munny (Eastwood) is sought out by neophyte gunslinger the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) to go with him to Big Whiskey and collect the bounty. While Munny insists, "I ain't like that no more," he needs the bounty money for his children, and the two men convince Munny's clean-living comrade Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to join them in righting a wrong done to a woman. Little Bill (Oscar-winner Gene Hackman), however, has no intention of letting any bounty hunters impinge on his iron-clad authority. When pompous gunman English Bob (Richard Harris) arrives in Big Whiskey with pulp biographer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) in tow, Little Bill beats Bob senseless and promises to tell Beauchamp the real story about violent frontier life and justice. But when Munny, the true unwritten legend, comes to town, everyone soon learns a harsh lesson about the price of vindictive bloodshed and the malleability of ideas like "justice." "I don't deserve this," pleads Little Bill. "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it," growls Munny, simultaneously summing up the insanity of western violence and the legacy of Eastwood's Man With No Name. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
Movie Level Themes
Bounty Hunters, Redemption, Sheriffs and Outlaws, Out For Revenge
Movie Level Tones
Tense, Harsh, Somber, Bleak, Lyrical, Gritty
Commentary by Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel
-All on Acconta Pullin' a Trigger
-Eastwood & Co.: Making Unforgiven
-Eastwood on Eastwood
Classic Maverick episode Duel at Sundown
1992--British Academy of Film and Television Arts, David Peoples-Nominee
1992--British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Gene Hackman-Nominee
1991--National Society of Film Critics, Clint Eastwood-Winner
Appearing two years after Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning megahit Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven helped spur a mini-revival of the moribund genre in the 1990s that included Posse (1993), Tombstone (1993), and Sharon Stone's "Man With No Name" turn in The Quick and the Dead (1995). Written by David Webb Peoples in 1976, the script was bought by Clint Eastwood in the early '80s, though he waited until he was old enough to play psychotic antihero William Munny as a grizzled veteran of a bloody past, rather than someone closer to the younger Eastwood of Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy and Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971). Upon its release in August 1992, seven years after Eastwood's previous western Pale Rider, Unforgiven was praised as an uncompromising revisionist masterpiece, showcasing Eastwood's visual command of western landscapes and locations and his perceptive yet critical view of the genre's mythology and his own place in its "machinery of violence." After deliberately pacing the reemergence of Munny's pathology, Eastwood shrouds the climactic shoot-out in cinematographer Jack N. Green's dark shadows and heavy rainfall reminiscent of film noir, rendering Munny's return to Eastwood's lethal star form unsettling in its victory. Unforgiven became an unexpected serious hit in a season of popcorn movies, eventually grossing over $100 million and reviving Eastwood's star standing after a series of late '80s flops. After winning several critics' prizes, it became one of only a handful of westerns to win the Best Picture Oscar; Eastwood's status behind the camera was finally acknowledged with a Best Director statuette. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
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