JT Film Review

56 – Unforgiven (1992)

Unforgiven REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Clint Eastwood

Cast – Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Jaimz Woolvett, Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher


unforgiven_posterUnforgiven is often referred to as one of the last great westerns, and as such it should come as no surprise that the great Clint Eastwood both directs and stars in it. This is a strange sort of western. It uses all the old western tropes; we have the damsels in distress (two points for being prostitutes), a slightly villainous sheriff, and two old partners reuniting for one last job. However despite all these we feel as if we don’t know what precisely will happen, and the movie feels abundantly fresh. It is slow, uses somewhat stereotypical figures, doesn’t have too much in the way of storyline, and is heavily dependent on mood. Essentially it is the western version of Blade Runner.

The movie has a rich supporting cast, and it is a good thing too, as one of the only things holding the movie back is (surprisingly) the performance of the lead, Clint Eastwood. He plays a subdued and tired character, a bounty hunter turned pig farmer who has given up his old ways out of respect for his dead wife, and so that he can raise his two children. The character is supposed to be tired and fairly monotonous to be sure, but Clint rarely breaks out of a caraciture of himself. I was reminded of Jim Carreys short parody of Clint Eastwood in Bruce Almighty. However after the movie really digs in and finds it legs we do indeed start to feel for his character, maybe because of his solitude.

The greatest thing about the movie is that it never absolves any character of what they do, and certainly does not condone violence. This is not A Fistful of Dollars; killing is not presented as being cool, and there is no real good guy or bad guy. The closest we get to a villian is Gene Hackman’s Sherrif “Little Bill”. His motives are of the purest kind, yet the way he goes about his duties is, well, a tad heavy handed. Clint Eastwood is reluctant to kill, but when given a realreason to do so, he goes about it with a certain flair and assuredness that you just know he’s not exactly sad about letting off a little steam. The person who possibly comes off the best is Morgan Freeman’s character, though even he has his moments. Their little sidekick, who aroggantly calls himself “the Schofield Kid” and claim to have killed five men (though he has yet to kill a single soul), is a cocky, worthless, little brat of a boy; a total write off.

unforgivenrichardharrisIt has been said by Gene Siskel and to some extent Roger Ebert that there are too many unnecessary secondary characters. I heavily disagree with them, as I found that they spiced up the movie and gave it some of its best moments. Sure some of them didn’t advance the plot per se, but that wasn’t the point. They weren’t the point of the trip, they were the nice stops at Burger King along the way. Richard Harris’ “English Bob” is one of the highlights. He is followed around by a writer chronicling his exploits who is played by Saul Rubinek (Daphne’s fiance, Donny, in the show Frasier). They all add wonderfully to the movies scope.

The story all builds up to a climax that at first glance seems to go directly against the movie’s message. However if you think about it in relation to the title and while paying attention to the epilogue, it is a bitter and ironic scene. Most westerns are, again, about how badass the main character is. This is about how being badass isn’t worth shit.


Unforgiven is one of Eastwood’s best, and among the best in the genre. The story is steady and carefully played out, and the ending is strangely touching. A character dies, and I was surprised to find that I didn’t want him to die. Such subtelty is unusual in a movie such as this, and I relished the tone and atmoshphere offered up. When a genre movie is excellently done, it creates a must see for everyone, not just the fans of that particular genre. That is what we have here.

NOTE: It has come to my attention that a Wikipedia user has quoted this site on Gene Siskel’s dislike of Unforgiven (on the Wikipedia page for The Silence of the Lambs) and thus that my site has a link on that page. I would like to clarify (as I am getting a fair bit of traffic from Silence of the Lambs page) that I do not hold myself as an authority on that matter, and that another site (At The Movies for example) should have been referenced . Thanks.



“Unforgiven” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



October 20, 2009 - Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Western, Year - 1990-1999 | , , , ,

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