Set in Wyoming in 1881 during the sunset years of the Wild West, 1992's Unforgiven
was directed by and starred Clint Eastwood, and is generally considered to be the towering achievement of his twilight years. Eastwood plays William Munny, once a vicious, whisky-swilling bounty hunter, brought to heel by his marriage to a good woman. When she dies, he must raise two children and run a hog farm alone, something which we see him make a comically poor fist of doing. Then, in a twist of fate, a young outlaw called the Schofield Kid trots up to his farm and invites him to collect on a $1,000 reward raised by a group of prostitutes. However, Clint must not only face up to his own somewhat rusty skills as a gunslinger, but also to genial-but-psychopathic lawman Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman in superb form).
Unforgiven ultimately conforms to the expectations of the genre, while subverting quite a few of them on the way. There's brooding on the consequences of violence ("It's a hell of a thing to kill a man"), as Munny's ineptitude with a rifle is matched by his feelings of penitence for his younger wrongdoings. Finally, however, Eastwood casts aside age and inhibition in a chillingly ruthless shootout, his powers miraculously (improbably?) restored, in what could also be seen as an assertion on the part of the ageing Eastwood of his own potency as a major player in Hollywood.
On the DVD: Unforgiven is presented in this Special Edition release in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer that gives due emphasis to what critic David Thomson described as the "drained, wintry" feel of the movie. There are numerous bonus features in addition to the original trailer. Eastwood official biographer Richard Schickel offers a particularly copious and detailed audio commentary which touches on all aspects of the film. The 64-minute 1997 documentary Clint on Clint offers a detailed if inevitably worshipful account of Eastwood's career. Finally, there's a 47-minute 1959 episode of Maverick, the old James Garner TV series, guest-starring a 29-year-old Clint, several years away from his big Hollywood break. --David Stubbs
In 1880s Kansas, ageing gunslinger-turned-farmer William Munny (Clint Eastwood) reluctantly agrees to come out of retirement to help Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) collect the bounty on a wanted murderer. The man in question cut up a prostitute in a lawless town lorded over by the corrupt Sheriff Daggett (Gene Hackman), and if Munny and Logan want to catch him they are going to have to deal with Daggett first. A gritty western which brought a new level of critical respect to its director, Clint Eastwood, winning him the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director (it also picked up the Best Supporting Actor award for Gene Hackman).