Advertisement

City Lights: 'Unforgiven' remake prompts revisit of the Eastwood version

April 22, 2014|By Michael Miller
  • Clint Eastwood, left, and Morgan Freeman in a scene from the 1992 Best Picture Oscar winner "Unforgiven."
Clint Eastwood, left, and Morgan Freeman in a scene from… (Warner Bros. )

One of the things I pride myself on is having outgrown best-of lists. When I was a teenager and people asked me to name my favorite movie, though, my quick answer was usually "Unforgiven," the Clint Eastwood Oscar-winner about an aging, widowed gunfighter who mounts the saddle again to hunt down the men who slashed a prostitute's face.

At the time, the movie swept me away with its grim, fatalistic take on the Old West. Certainly, it came along at the right time. It opened a few weeks before I turned 13, an age when many boys crave gutty realism, and when I proclaimed it my favorite film, I felt a tinge of pride that I had made such a sophisticated — and, not coincidentally, R-rated — choice.

When I saw that the Newport Beach Film Festival planned to show a Japanese remake of the film this month, however, I was struck by the realization that I hadn't actually seen the original in years. Would it hold up more than two decades after its release? Or, as with so many things that I swore by in adolescence, would I find that my perception of it had changed?

Advertisement

Curious, I re-watched the film on DVD and found that the latter was true. Many of the qualities that impressed me years ago — the earthy acting, unglamorous locales and soul-searching moments — held up admirably. But in trying to fuse an existential message with a standard action-movie plot, the film showed itself to be more of a Hollywood concoction than I understood at the time.

For those who need a refresher, "Unforgiven" stars Eastwood as William Munny, a once-infamous gunman who has turned to farm and family life after marrying a woman who tempered his darker impulses. After two cowboys assault a prostitute in the amusingly named town of Big Whiskey, Wyo., a nearsighted upstart named the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) asks Munny to help him track down and kill the men, who now have a handsome price on their heads.

The pair becomes a trio when Munny's old comrade, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), comes on board, and on the trail to Big Whiskey, the three men confront their varied feelings about killing. Munny, who swears off alcohol, credits many of his younger indiscretions to drink, while the Schofield Kid, originally a braggart who boasts about having slain five men, ultimately reveals himself as a fraud when he breaks down after shooting one. (You should stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers, but I feel content giving away the ending of a 22-year-old film.)

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|