Warner Home Video
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Richard Harris
Extras: Production Notes
If you have wondered if the Wild West was really as glorious as the old movies have made you believe, then "Unforgiven" is one movie you must see. This award-winning movie created by the multi-talented Clint Eastwood – he acts as the producer, director, and star of this picture – will open your eyes to a world that creates a more believably real picture of what the Wild West looked like. Heroes get shot and feel the pain of their wounds. They grow old and weak. They stumble, fall and they suffer severely from hangovers. Best of all, the gunslingers even get short-sighted. As you can imagine, "Unforgiven" is not a standard Western. It is different, and it revived my passion for this genre, lost so many years.
Set in 1880, the movie starts in the small town of Big Whiskey with a drunken cowboy cutting up a woman at the local whorehouse. When the town’s Sheriff Little Bill Bragget (Gene Hackman in one of his best performances) decides that the owner of the whorehouse has to redeemed while the whores themselves are ignored, the women unite, scrape up some money, and put up a bounty on the head of the cowboy and his fellow. When a young wanna-be gunslinger decides to take the case and make a name for himself, he attempts to enlist the aid of a once-famous bounty hunter William Munny (Clint Eastwood).
After years of tracking down people, killing them in cold blood for reqard money, Munny is now a totally different person. Haunted by nightmares of the people he killed, widowed with two children to raise and a pig farm that barely produces enough money to survive, he is only a shadow of the hero he once was. Although totally his skills are rusty and he is plagued by his age, he eventually gives in to help the young hotshot – if only for the money – and sets out with him and his former partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to once again kill for money. Soon enough however, they collide with Sheriff Bragget, who not only serves the law but has a tendency to shape it his way.
As most of Eastwood’s movies, "Unforgiven" is not exactly dialogue driven. It is however an extremely character driven movie and every single line of dialogue contributes to the overall point, which makes them even more meaningful. Surprisingly this movie is quite the opposite from Eastwood’s earlier spaghetti Westerns where his personae tended to glorify death and problems were solved with a quick shot from the hip. "Unforgiven" is uncompromising in that respect, offering the point that violence does not solve anything, and, indeed, only furthers pain.
As a sidenote it is interesting that Eastwood picked up the rights to this movie in the late 70s and let it sit without touching it because he felt he was too young to play the part of William Munny and needed some maturing. A wise decision if you ask me, because Munny is portrayed in absolutely convincing perfection, as are all other characters in the movie; they come across as believable as actors in cinema can get. The movies’s transfer to DVD is meticulous. Featuring quite a few dark interior scenes – no, the Wild West did not really have spotlights to lighten up your house – with difficult light settings, it is surprising how well this disc gets them all across. There is plenty of detail in the shadows and not a hint of <$chroma,chroma noise> or compression artifacts to be seen anywhere in this movie. "Unforgiven" comes in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> version with a <$PS,pan&scan> version on the flip side of the disc.
This disc has some of the best sound found on any DVD so far. It has been remastered for <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel>s and its aggressive use of the surrounds, creates a totally immersive sound environment that is both wide and deep. Lennie Niehaus’s soundtrack is very nice and comes across with all it’s nuances and subtleties in this transfer.
It is not surprising that this movie garnered four Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. It is a solid piece of craftsmanship, expertly brought together by Clint Eastwood and well worth watching. It puts a bullet in the head of stereotypical myths and shows the Wild West as a bloody harsh world, one that does not readily lend itself to all the stuff of lore. "Unforgiven" is a great movie with a great DVD transfer.