Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Premise: A retired assassin (Clint Eastwood) in the old west returns to killing in order to feed his family.
What Works: The film features great performances from Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman. The supporting cast is very strong as well, and the film does a good job of characterizing the minor roles. This is a Western that makes a nod to film noir and it uses that element to examine the consequences of the kinds of violence that westerns and action films have often provided as prurient entertainment.
What Doesn’t: This is not a shoot ‘em up film, even by classic western standards. This is a character and story driven film, which is to its credit. However, those accustomed to hackneyed action-westerns may feel that Unforgiven moves too slow.
DVD extras: The most recent edition of the film is a two disc special edition that includes an audio commentary, a tenth anniversary featurette, a vintage documentary, retrospectives on Eastwood’s career, and an episode of the Maverick television show that includes Eastwood as a supporting role.
Bottom Line: Unforgiven is a film that examines the western, one of the most powerful and entrenched story genres in American culture. The film is metatextual and deflates the myths of our American heroes, making the audience reevaluate their culture. It is simultaneously satisfying and unsettling.
Episode: #42 (March 6, 2005)