Unforgiven: A Slightly Different Western

In all my current Western film/fiction fervor, I nearly forgot to post my impressions of Unforgiven, the 1992 western directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. It also features Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman, among many other fine actors. It was simply awe-inspiring. Some people call it one of the last western movies. But with recent releases such as the remake of 3:10 to Yuma and No Country For Old Men, I don't think the western genre is quite dead yet.

Eastwaood, as always, was unforgettable as Bill Munny, the former killer and bandit who now just wants to lead a quiet life on a desolate farm with his two kids. But of course, that simple life is not meant to be. The most interesting thing about this film for me was how Eastwood subtly altered many of the common elements of the western. For example, Munny is ostensibly the 'hero' of the film, despite his storied past. But he's definitely a non-traditional hero. In the beginning, as he leaves his kids, he can't mount his horse without falling down. It takes three attempts. As Munny goes after the reward for killing two whore-abusers, Eastwood raises the question of what is justice? Did these men deserve to die? For Munny, he just needs some more cash.

More importantly, when confronting Little Bill Daggett (Hackman) at the end, Munny completely reverts to his old, tough, heartless self. After killing the 'bad guys' (who aren't really all that evil), Munny has to sneak out of the town like a villian himself, in case someone else tries to take him out. That's hardly the romantic image of the hero we're used to in westerns.

One of the main reasons I love this film is how scary Munny becomes after he reverts to his old self. I rarely remember quotes from movies, but one line near the end has stuck with me since I watched Unforgiven.

As Munny stands over a defeated Little Bill:
Little Bill: I don't deserve this.
Munny: Deserved ain't got nothing to do with it.
And Munny shoots him in the face.
It's incredibly intense, cold, and ruthless. I still vividly remember that scene, and that rarely happens with movies these days. Unforgiven is not just a great western, but a great movie. It deserves to be in anyone's collection. I can't wait to watch it again.

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