Little Bill Daggett: “You’d be William Munny out of Missouri. Killer of women and children.”
Will Munny: “That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.”
So goes the exchange between the sheriff and the gunfighter before Clint Eastwood’s final blazing showdown — in a Western anyway.
At least that’s what Eastwood claims in one of several interviews included in the extras of the 20th anniversary Blu-ray edition of “Unforgiven.” The actor/director says he always intended the 1992 horse opera to be his last, and so far he’s kept his word.
But he certainly left the genre with a bang, literally and figuratively speaking, with his character gunning down five men in one blazing swoop, and his movie raking in big bucks at the box office and four Oscars at the 1993 awards ceremony for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman as Little Bill Daggett), Best Editing and, for Eastwood, Best Director.
It is only the third Western after “Cimarron” (1931) and “Dances with Wolves” (1990) ever to win a Best Picture statuette.
So how could a story about an outlaw who’s killed women and children garner so much adulation?
Perhaps it was how Eastwood, directing from David Webb Peoples’ superb screenplay, portrayed the grim consequences of violence, and how he dealt with themes of aging, human limits and mortality in an a starkly honest and sometimes moving way.
Eastwood sat on this script for years, waiting until he was old enough to play Munny, a reformed outlaw and killer, struggling to raise two children on a failing farm, until a bounty offered by vengeful prostitutes lures him out of retirement. The excellent Morgan Freeman plays Munny’s old partner, and Hackman is convincingly mean-spirited as the brutal sheriff of Big Whiskey, Wyo., where the action centers.
Photographed in artful noir tones by Jack Green, Eastwood’s last roundup is now packaged inside a 54-page hardback book full of behind-the-scenes photos and insight, complete with four documentaries and an episode of the ’50s TV series “Maverick,” guest-starring a very young Eastwood as — what else — a gunfighter.
— Gene Triplett