Wednesday, June 4, 2014


If there’s one man—one actor—you’d think of when discussing westerns it’s got to be Clint Eastwood.  The gruff voice and look he’s been blessed with has always been perfect for the role of someone from the old west.  Continually a perfect fit for the gunslinger with no name who comes into town not looking for trouble but seems to always find it—that’s the role that Eastwood was born to play.  From the trio of Spaghetti Westerns he did with Sergio Leone in the mid-60s and up until this, his final western, 1992’s Unforgiven.

You can look at this as Clint Eastwood’s swan song…his last hurrah…his touching goodbye to his badass cowboy character, but what a way to go out!  Although he was pushing 62 years of age—and may have looked it at the beginning of this film—by the end of this flick, he looked like someone you best not mess with.

It’s hard to imagine anyone else with the career that Eastwood has enjoyed and it’s hard to believe how he started out.  I happened upon a few cameos he’d appeared in a few years ago when I decided to watch a couple of old creature features from the 1950s: Tarantula and Revenge of the Creature.  If you blink, you might miss him, but if you’re a fan of Eastwood you’ll know his voice when you hear it.  In Tarantula, he plays a fitting character as the lead commander in a jet squadron flying in to destroy the creature.  In Revenge of the Creature, Clint has a small walk-on role of a lab assistant who misplaces a mouse, but soon finds it…in his lab coat pocket (cue the funny, lighthearted music).  However, it wasn’t long until he found himself in an appropriate role as Rowdy Yates on TV’s “Rawhide.”  The rest, they say, is history.

Back in 1992—and after seven years since his last western film (Pale Rider)—when this film was announced to be released and a few friends wanted to go see it, I had my reservations about it.  I actually had the audacity to think that Clint Eastwood was too far past his prime to make another western of the same caliber as his older ones.  When watching some of Eastwood’s latest films like Heartbreak Ridge or The Dead Pool or even Pink Cadillac, I thought that he was better fitted as a modern type of film star, playing parts in his age range, and couldn’t see him back in a cowboy hat and boots.  However, after watching him in Unforgiven, especially after the finale, I had learned that I was so wrong.

In the small town of Big Whiskey, Wyoming, a cowpoke by the name of Mike (David Mucci) is insulted when a girl at the local brothel, Delilah (Anna Levine), makes a comment about the size of his package, prompting him to attack her with a knife and cut up her face with the help of his friend, Davey (Rob Campbell).  The women of the brothel want the men to pay for what they’d done, but the local Sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman), agrees to let them go as long as they reimburse the proprietor, Skinny DuBois (Anthony James), with a few horses come spring thaw.  Not satisfied with the outcome, the women pool together a thousand dollars and put the word out of a reward for killing the two men in spite of Sheriff Bill’s disdain for assassins.  William Munny (Eastwood), recently a widower and taking care of his two children as a farmer, is visited by a young man (Jaimz Woolvett) who asks for his help in killing the two men, agreeing to
split the reward.  Munny, admitting he used to be a ruthless killer, turns down the offer and sends the young man—self-proclaimed as “The Schofield Kid”—away, but soon changes his mind as he sees the money would help him and his children.  After getting his old friend, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), to go with him, they soon catch up with “The Schofield Kid” and make their way in finding the men who cut up the woman.

The film starts off a little comedic at times, while other times you feel a wonderful tale is being told.  The affirmation of the heroes and villains are not so clear until the third act of the film, where you just want the movie to go on and on.  From the beginning—as with most Eastwood films—we know that his character is the protagonist, but we’re led to believe Hackman’s character may be one as well.  When the smug English Bob (Richard Harris) comes into town, putting down Americans and boasting about his own country, as an audience you really do not like this guy and feel Hackman’s character is a good guy for beating him down.  But that all changes when the third act comes into play and all bets are off.

Unforgiven is the fourteenth film that Eastwood has directed and starred in and I‘ll say he has quite a flair for it.  The way some of these scenes were shot really shows the beauty of the old west as it highlighted great scenery, showed off the lay of the land, and depicted how life was lived back then.  Eastwood doesn’t try to bolster himself as a perfect character, nor does he give himself any more screen time than his costars.  Everybody has their part to play and it adds up for a magnificent western film.

Yes, Eastwood is one of my favorite actors and I have a huge DVD and Blu-Ray collection of his films.  I’ve seen nearly all of the films he’s acted in and quite a few of the ones he’s directed (but not featured in the cast).  His deadpan quips and one-liners will go down in cinematic history as lines we’d all love to use in real life—and wish we’d thought of them.  From his famous “Do you feel lucky?” and “Go ahead, make my day!” lines of the Dirty Harry films to the best line in Unforgiven after Gene Hackman’s Little Bill tells Eastwood’s Munny that he’d just shot an unarmed man: “Well, he should’ve armed himself…”

Overall, I love just about everything in this film, from the story to the sets to the authentic wardrobe worn by the cast, all of it gives it the feel that you’re back in time and living in the old west.

I commend Clint Eastwood on this film, and most other films he’s involved with as an actor/director.  He is definitely one of a kind, knowing where he comes from and how he started.  Just reading the dedication during the end credits says it all: “Dedicated to Sergio and Don."  Sergio Leone brought forth Eastwood as the western superstar in the trilogy of Italian westerns and Don Siegel directed Eastwood in a handful of hit movies early on in his career as well.

On another note, you may or may not have read the succession of books by Stephen King called “The Dark Tower” series, about a lone gunslinger, Roland, on a quest to find The Dark Tower.  He goes on a journey across an otherworldly landscape, first going after “the man in black” and then continuing on his search.  Along the way, he finds portals to other worlds—including our present day world—and finds people to join his “ka-tet,” training them to be gunslingers as well.  It’s a spectacular narrative and I hope one day the whole story will be put on film respectably.  But I just have to say, the whole time I was reading the books, I’d always picture Clint Eastwood as Roland.  He was a man of little words, but was a badass as a gunslinger.

Well, my final “bit” on Unforgiven?

A simple story filmed in such a superb style, giving us equal amounts of suspense, action and drama.  Eastwood definitely gives us someone to cheer for and you certainly will by the end of this film.  It’s a perfect ending to his career as a western film star and he definitely went out with a bang.  Unforgiven is one for the books.  If you’ve never seen this film, what are you waiting for?

Hey, thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

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