Saturday, January 16, 2010

#21 Unforgiven: A man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition

1992. dir. Clint Eastwood, starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman.

Seen it before? No.
Deserve's got nothin' to do with it. --William Munny
The first of many Westerns on the list... this one is of the more recent "revisionist" vintage that attempts to be more realistic in its depiction of the old West. Clint Eastwood plays William Munny, who is a retired assassin and widower. He is attempting to raise livestock and is apparently not too successful at it. Meanwhile in a nearby town, there is an incident in which two traveling cowboys knife a prostitute's face. The sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman), lets them off with a fairly light punishment, so the other prostitutes pool their money to hire somebody to kill them.

Much is made in this movie of the difficulty of killing. As opposed to a lot of the older cowboy movies, the characters in this movie actually have moral issues with it. The prostitutes seem to regret their decision, and all of the bloodshed that comes as a result. It's all very morally ambiguous, and there's no clear "good guy" in this movie. (Except maybe Morgan Freeman, but not really.) Clint Eastwood's character in particular is very anti-heroic.

I think a key character is the pulp novelist played by Saul Rubinek (Hey! It's Daphne's fiancee from Frasier!) He's introduced as the "biographer" of English Bob (Richard Harris) who had been telling him a lot of outlandish tales that he would then publish as "true stories". You see how the myth of the Wild West came to be created, and the movie does a good job desconstructing it.

This is a really well-made, tense, dramatic movie, and I really don't have anything snarky to say about it.

Position on the list: 108
OK, I lied, here's one: The ending is pretty friggin' ridiculous. I won't ruin it, but it's exactly the sort of bullshit unrealistic thing that would happen in one of those pulp novels.

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