1992 • Unforgiven

Unforgiven 19921988 through 1991 had been perhaps my favorite four-year stretch of movies to this point in the project. I was so enamored with those four movies that I almost didn’t want to move on to the next one, in case it was a failure and ruined our nice little streak. But then again we’re talking about a movie by Clint Eastwood, starring himself, Morgan Freeman, and Gene Hackman, so the odds of it being a bust were pretty slim.

1992’s Unforgiven is one of the few westerns we’ve had in the Best Picture project. Maybe one could include Dances With Wolves in the western genre, but besides that, only 1931’s Cimarron was a true gun-slinger.

Unforgiven reminded me a bit of 1959’s Ben Hur in a totally ridiculous way, but even more ridiculous. You see, in Ben Hur, the entire 212-minute epic story would have been avoided if not for a very minor event at the beginning of the movie—Ben-Hur is sent to the galleys after knocking a rock off a roof towards a horse, which set off a massive chain of events. In Unforgiven, the movie exists because a whore in the town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming laughs at the tiny size of a cowboy’s penis.

Of course there’s much more to the movie than that, but just think, if she’d been able to keep her mouth shut, there would have been no movie! Anyway, the offended cowboy then slashes this woman’s face repeatedly with a knife, leaving her alive but disfigured and unable to earn wages in the whorehouse. After the town sheriff lets the cowboys off with minimal punishment, the whores band together and offer a $1000 reward for the slaying of the cowboy and his partner.

In search of the $1000 reward is a brash young fellow named the Schofield Kid, who recruits retired legendary gunman William Munny (Eastwood) to help kill the cowboys. Munny reluctantly agrees, and recruits his old partner Ned Logan (Freeman). The three ride into Big Whiskey and raise some serious hell. But will they kill the cowboys and claim their reward, or will they return home themselves? Those are the questions that are answered in the climax of Unforgiven.

Unforgiven was another solid picture from the early 90s, led by outstanding acting from the Big 3, and again helped along by a haunting melody throughout (as you can see from the last few movies, a great score can really boost a movie, in my opinion). I liked the way Munny talked, always saying “I guess” or “I guess not.” And they go to great lengths to show just how past his prime Munny is, embarrassing himself in front of his kids, unable to climb upon his horse initially. His innocent little daughter asks her brother, “Did Pa used to kill folks?”

I have never been a big western aficionado, but this is probably the best I’ve seen, right up there with that 3:10 to Yuma movie from a few years back. I ranked it #26 on my list, just behind The Bridge on the River Kwai and just ahead of Terms of Endearment. Next up, 1993’s Schindler’s List.

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