Oscar Review: Unforgiven (1992)
William Munny (Clint Eastwood), a sorry, broken down, old thief who can barely shoot a can off a stump or mount a horse convinces his old partner, Ned (Morgan Freeman), to join him in going after a bounty on the heads of two cowboys who cut up a local prostitute.
When a hired gun, English Bob (Richard Harris), heads into town to find the two boys, the sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman), beats him for breaking the ordinance against carrying fire arms to send a message that he will not tolerate lawless killing in his jurisdiction.
Will, Ned, and their partner, the nearsighted Schofield Kid, find the women – get a few advances on their payment – and begin their search for the cowboys. While in the bar, Will meets up with Little Bill and gets his first look at just how brutal the “keeper of the peace” actually is.
After killing the first man, Ned comes to realize that he’s no longer the killer he once was and heads for home. Along the way, he’s picked up by the ranchers and brought to Little Bill who shows no mercy when questioning him.
After taking care of the second offender, Will finds out that his best friend and partner has been killed. Not about to let the violent sheriff get away with murder, Will heads into town to settle the score.
Winner of 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Director (Eastwood), Supporting Actor (Hackman), and Editing (Joel Cox, who edits most of Eastwood’s films), Unforgiven is a modern story of the Old West that ranks at #98 on AFI’s list.
Once again, I found this film to be enjoyable but not quite up to the level of a “Best Picture.” Likewise, as talented as Gene Hackman is as an actor, I felt that Jack Nicholson‘s role as Col. Nathan R. Jessep in A Few Good Men was far more compelling.
To me, a Best Picture should exemplify the art of storytelling. There should be tremendous depth in the characters, a solid plot, and a certain amount of significance in the subject matter. Yes, Little Bill was a hard man but he was enforcing the law while 3 men were out to kill for money. For me, it just didn’t add up. Again, my vote would’ve gone to A Few Good Men for it’s writing, it’s acting, and for its examination of the question “is the one who gives the order just as guilty as the one who executes it?”Far more interesting and important than a poor, reformed killer looking for a pay off. But that’s just me.