Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood’s homage to the spaghetti western, is a funny, quirky, dark and brooding morality play about the nature of killing and killers, wickedness and righteousness, and the vast gray area in between.
After two drunken cowboys slash the face of Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Levine), a young whore in a frontier brothel, her prostitute sisterhood offers a handsome reward to any gunman who avenges her assault by shooting the two cowboys dead.
William Munny (Clint Eastwood) formerly “the meanest sonuvabitch” gunfighter, now a widower hog farmer cured of his wickedness by his now deceased wife, is recruited out of retirement by The Scofield Kid, a nearsighted teenager and wannabe killer. Munny enlists his old partner, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), and together, they plot the assassination.
Meanwhile back in Big Whiskey, Little Bill (Gene Hackman), the town sheriff--a former gunfighter himself--prepares for the onslaught of outlaws and mercenaries by beating the crap out of the assassin English Bob (Richard Chamberlain) and sending him and his guns packing. Little Bill expects that this will serve as a warning to all-comers.
It doesn’t stop Munny, even after getting the crap beaten out of him by Little Bill himself. His slow descent back into a boiler of violence has begun. The reluctant hero cannot save himself from his nature and his destiny. And when Ned Logan is brutally murdered… well, that doesn’t help the case for righteousness.
Jack N. Green’s stunning, panoramic cinematography and Lennie Niehaus’ lean score punctuate Unforgiven’s dark almost Biblical message of retribution and absolution. This incredible Western won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman’s performance. It was nominated for half a dozen other Oscars, won the Golden Globe and DGA Awards, and was number 98 in AFI’s 100 Greatest American Movies.