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. --David Stubbs