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Overall Rating
4.54

Awesome77.61%
Worth A Look: 10.45%
Average: 4.48%
Pretty Bad: 2.99%
Total Crap: 4.48%

6 reviews, 98 user ratings


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Unforgiven (1992)
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by John Linton Roberson

"Eastwood For Those Who Don't Like Eastwood: The Ultimate Western"
5 stars

I despise macho crap. Apart from THE SEARCHERS, for instance--and in that film he's an obsessive, racist, and unlikable bastard, pretty accurate--I hate John Wayne. I loathe anything propounding action without thought. And that is why I have always liked Clint Eastwood's westerns, because for me he redeems a genre which can be done well, often hasn't been, but is so very good when it is.

The western has been used to propel and debunk as many myths as have been invented about America. The west, symbolizing the new, the unknown, the escape, is a perfect mental state upon which Americans enact these cultural allegories, which are most often hideous and vile but are sometimes sublime. The best westerns are the ones that use the realities of the west as the mileu. Which is the only way to reveal anything about the American character, if there is such a thing, in the genre. Because the west was where the basic poles of savagery and decency, and everything in between, were established as a spirit independent from British or European culture. It is significant that the one British character who shows his face in this film gets humiliated and thrown out of town.

The best westerns are therefore complex, lyrical, shocking, revelatory, accurate as far as can be managed, warm, tragic, and funny. A short list of some of the films(besides this) that in my opinion epitomize what I mean: LITTLE BIG MAN(nearly the best ever); THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY; THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN(the one and only good performance from Charles Bronson, among other amazements); THE WILD BUNCH; BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID; JEREMIAH JOHNSON; THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES; HEAVEN'S GATE(yes, that; I think it's good and about the only one to address the part immigrants and robber barons played in the West); and DEAD MAN.

You notice how one star keeps coming up?

Eastwood's characters are always about the same, true; he's a star, not an actor(and a hell of a director). He plays Clint Eastwood, as Marion Morrison played John Wayne, in Garth Ennis' sharp observation. The Man With No Name. A cynical, somewhat black-humored anti-hero with only the most basic sense of honor, which only rarely won over his sense of self-preservation. And he always survived, because the only way TO survive was to be a mean, mercenary bastard whose heart was slowly being rotted away. The best westerns deal with the domestication of the west and the irrelevance of the ones who founded it to the new order. The gunfighters either join the law, become security, or get hunted down and killed. Or they quit and just get old and boring.

Eastwood's character here, William Munny, is roughly equivalent to Woody Allen's recent, and equally brilliant character Harry Block, in that it represents a consolidation, re-evaluation, and critique of the persona either star has put forth for years, with charm removed and the ugly or just more disturbing parts concentrated upon, the parts the charm made you miss. It shows you the hollowness inside thoase icons.

Basic Premise:
In the film, William Munny was once the most feared gunfighter--well, assassin--in the west, who "killed women and children, and just about everything that walked or crawled one time or another." which he readily and guiltily admits throughout the movie. He was mean, abused animals and women, and drank horribly; and could only shoot someone when he was drunk; when sober he didn't have the nerve nor, therefore, the aim. He met a woman who married him, had his children, but died later of sickness.

She reformed him of his killing and his drinking; now he's a broken recovering alcoholic failing to tend a pig farm in the middle of fucking nowhere, with two children he's getting too poor to raise. He has nightmares about the people he killed and doesn't ever want to do that again.

Then he really needs a lot of money, and the opportunity to kill someone who really deserves it(a cowboy, as it happens, for having cut up the face of a prostitute for giggling at his tiny member). He has to. He goes. He does. And worse. I don't want to ruin it if you haven't seen it.

Eastwood has never let himself look as weak, scared, and vulnerable as in this film. He falls off his horse, misses when he shoots(till the end of the film), wakes up screaming and crying, and is afraid to fight. He takes the entire film dissecting his screen persona and making it laughable, till near the end when it comes back literally with a vengeance, and scarier than ever and stronger for having been broken. The last 30 minutes of UNFORGIVEN are among the scariest moments you'll ever see in an American film of any genre.

This film is the ultimate western in the way Kubrick's 2001 is definitely the ultimate, elemental science fiction film or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is the ultimate historical bio-epic. It takes the elements of the genre, soaks them in reality, and puts them back together in better order than they'd ever been before.

Along the way we get one more in about, what, a million excellent performances from Gene Hackman, as the former gunfighter turned bullying sheriff who kicks the living shit out of anyone coming in to collect the reward, and debunks myth after myth about gunfighting and the west with a snickering sneer that's a delight to watch.

One of those whom he kicks the shit out of is Richard Harris, doing, frankly, the only really good performance I've ever seen from him, playing the previously mentioned Englander, English Bob, who takes delight in making cruel jokes about the president's assassination and other American wounds on Independence Day.

Saul Rubinek, who is hilarious, plays one of those who created the myth of the Wild West, a trash writer who follows Bob around and writes ludicrously lurid adventures without a word of truth in them, supposedly based on Bob's exploits, for consumption by readers back East. Thus were the misconceptions which the western has been so very guilty of perpetuating born.

A strange thing I've noticed whenever I've shown this film to people who don't like westerns, which are most of my friends. They watch this engrossed, express utter surprise afterward and declare suddenly heavy respect for Clint Eastwood. This film converts people like GOODFELLAS redeems the gangster film. This is just about the only film this decade to win Best Picture that actually, unquestionably deserved it, like, say, AMADEUS or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA did.

If you haven't seen it, what the hell is wrong with you?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=843&reviewer=151
originally posted: 09/30/99 16:03:28
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User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell low key but potent Eastwoods great 4 stars
12/31/11 Simon Lovely moral ambiguity, turns western theme on its head; any viewer finds something to like 5 stars
2/03/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess Classic neo-western 5 stars
8/17/10 TravisN One of the few movies in the 90's that deserved its BP award. 5 stars
7/19/10 forest gump Really good western 4 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King Some of the dialogue in this film is a bit odd and the ending lacks credibility. 3 stars
4/18/10 PAUL SHORTT POWERFUL AND SUPERBLY DRAMATIC 4 stars
3/08/10 Samantha Pruitt this movie was boring and overrated! 2 stars
1/08/10 Dane Youssef Just maybe the last great western. Eastwood and Hackman scorch. Still have the west in them 5 stars
9/15/09 MB Ignore the morons who don't get it...this film is a masterpiece 5 stars
5/24/09 bud cham very good film. Bit slow in the middle but a rousing last 20 minutes makes up for it. 4 stars
3/22/09 james obrien the very best of this kind of film 5 stars
2/23/09 Caryl Yantis I loved this movie 5 stars
2/15/09 whentempersflare I'm not a big fan of westerns, but this was pretty good. 4 stars
2/12/09 Ming Clint still make my days..Great movie 4 stars
1/26/09 Pamela White Very overrated for a western, weak plot for great actors. 2 stars
1/26/09 Anonymous. the best western i've ever seen. 5 stars
10/22/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
9/28/07 mr.mike slightly overrated , but still a classic 4 stars
1/20/07 AJ Muller This, Josey Wales, and The Wild Bunch are the best Westerns ever. Period. 5 stars
9/05/06 MP Bartley Majestic, mythic, moody and magnificent. Deeply and darkly brooding. 5 stars
7/19/06 David Cohen The Hollywood Western can never go back to what it was before "Unfogiven," Thank God! 5 stars
7/06/06 Brian Mckay Only second to the Josey Wales - Godamighty! 5 stars
6/08/06 Peggy Doty Loved this movie deserved all the awards 5 stars
5/12/06 SpyV I love this movie. Fantastic study of character, in a western backdrop. 5 stars
5/10/06 perempe one of the best westerns of today 5 stars
3/04/06 lawyer J.Noble Daggett damn fine! Eastwood, Freeman, and especially Hackman are NATIONAL TREASURES 5 stars
12/09/05 Frank Rountree Excellent story and great acting 5 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Darker than your average western. 4 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Clint breaks off his golfing for another bit of squinty gnashing about, um, violence. 1 stars
8/25/05 ES A movie that requires multiple watches for true appreciation 4 stars
8/18/05 Jake Clint Eastwood's Masterpiece 5 stars
7/11/05 sbpat21 a fucking great movie 5 stars
6/05/05 Ubu the Ripper Not the greatest western of all time, but very good. 5 stars
3/18/05 indrid cold The "take away all he's got ..." scene is classic, but otherwise I was somewhat let down. 4 stars
3/12/05 Richard Betts The greatest western ever. Brilliant. 5 stars
2/09/05 Dan Great Movie. 5 stars
1/30/05 Bob Barton This ranks right at the top of all-time greatest western movies ever made 5 stars
7/08/04 Stevo "Take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna hav." 5 stars
7/04/04 Luiz Gilberto de Oliveira Messias This movie show how the murder really is: Ugly and dirty. 5 stars
5/14/04 Trentus Whitbread POO FACE 1 stars
3/25/04 Lord Haw Haw We all got it comin', kid. 5 stars
1/03/04 A F I hate westerns, yet I rather enjoyed this film. 4 stars
12/14/03 john a powerful film and a great cast 5 stars
11/24/03 Edler One of the greatest ever! 5 stars
11/22/03 adguy Want to see the real west? Take a look. Top notch. 5 stars
9/28/03 Nasty_Gnorc proves that western's aren't dead. 5 stars
8/30/03 Evilmasterfoo Hell of a thing killin' a man. 5 stars
8/03/03 Lord Jiggy Powerful story of a descent into Hell. Superior to most films of the last 10 years 5 stars
7/02/03 AD overated my arse 5 stars
5/16/03 mr. Pink One of the most overrated movies of the 90s. Finale doesn't gel with everything before that 3 stars
3/20/03 May Q. Horney Possibly most overrated Best Pic winner ever, maybe soon to loose distinction to Shitcago. 3 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby A bit underdeveloped, but it's still an outstanding piece of work. 4 stars
2/11/03 Ubu the Ripper Not "Josey Wales". Too much "F" word and a bad guy who cuts prostitute's breasts. Goofy. 2 stars
12/24/02 Dominic We all got it coming kid. 5 stars
10/30/02 Monster W. Kung Quite unique, actually. Awesome. 5 stars
10/09/02 Charles Tatum Eastwood has done better westerns! 3 stars
9/30/02 Own too loose when my pie are gain her High on my "Why the heck did that win best picture?" list 3 stars
9/27/02 Tom Fleeman A very gripping tale with that powerful Clint Eastwood demeanor. 5 stars
9/07/02 Ramblin Wreck This could be argued to be the greates Western movie........and I love Westerns!!! 5 stars
8/14/02 sdfr an instant classic! 5 stars
7/18/02 terry finnegan great film great actors great story 5 stars
3/20/02 Brian Holly Possibly the greatest western movie ever made 5 stars
12/02/01 R.W. Welch Hackman performance boosts this one up from the ordinary. 4 stars
11/26/01 cg perfect debunking of the american ideal 5 stars
11/25/01 LIAM JACKSON THIS MOVIE IS ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING.CLINT EASTWOOD AND GENE HACKMAN KICK ARSE! 5 stars
10/21/01 Andrew Carden Totally Dull Script, and Very Disturbing To Watch. Not Recommended. 1 stars
8/31/01 spaceworm I still say this film is underrated... 5 stars
7/04/01 jim dyer realism - rare in westerns, very strong here 5 stars
6/15/01 zombie not the best western, but pretty close 5 stars
5/03/01 BrainPan The ultimate anti-western. Glorious. 5 stars
3/08/01 master.node THE best western ever made. And one of the best films. 5 stars
2/17/01 Jake classic 5 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla the best western ever made, you don't like it, your probably a fucking idiot!!!! 5 stars
11/12/00 john linton roberson To the western what WATCHMEN is to comics 5 stars
8/30/00 Chris Drake Tiresome overblown Eastwood tripe. Enough, already! 1 stars
8/21/00 Matthew Bartley Mean, moody, thought provoking magnificence 5 stars
6/29/00 Terrie Smith Brooding western; last half hour unlike anything I've seen in films. Great cinematography. 5 stars
6/24/00 Naushad Khanji Slept all way.Jury who handed award should be sued 1 stars
5/19/00 tank A masterpiece and arguably the greatest western ever made.The Academy were finally right 5 stars
4/19/00 Avery Everything the western is supposed to be. 5 stars
2/10/00 Mic Booooring 2 stars
1/17/00 Corey Clint is the man, one of if not his best movie. 5 stars
11/17/99 DES Without doubt, the greatest western of all time 5 stars
10/29/99 Neil Harrington One of the greatest westerns of all time 5 stars
10/27/99 Vance Hi-Caliber Western! Deserving of it's Oscars! 5 stars
8/19/99 Jesse Oh baby it rules!!! 5 stars
8/11/99 Phil Mielke Eastwood's Best! Redefined westerns. 5 stars
5/27/99 GothamDK Thinking man's Western. Better than that Tombstone cartoon. 5 stars
4/06/99 Mikef This shit just didn't float my boat. 1 stars
1/02/99 tarkin666 Made me wanna get a six-shooter. 5 stars
12/16/98 Binky Eastwood's best. 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Overrated, the shoot-out ending undermines everything that was told before. 3 stars
11/23/98 Peter Eastwood, different for once 5 stars
11/22/98 little jerry Like a western directed by Ingmar Bergman.Incredibly,Bergman couldn't improve on this. 5 stars
11/17/98 Jules Hey, you don't need good guys to have a good movie! 4 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob A Western that de-glamorizes the myths, and sets a mind to thinkin'. 5 stars
9/05/98 pooky the bald What a great fuckin' movie. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Aug-1992 (R)

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