Unforgiven (1992)

Genres - Western, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Revisionist Western, Outlaw (Gunfighter) Film  |   Release Date - Aug 7, 1992 (USA)  |   Run Time - 131 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

Appearing two years after Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning megahit Dances With Wolves, Unforgiven helped spur a mini-revival of the moribund genre in the 1990s that included Posse (1993), Tombstone (1993), and Sharon Stone's "Man With No Name" turn in The Quick and the Dead (1995). Written by David Webb Peoples in 1976, the script was bought by Clint Eastwood in the early '80s, though he waited until he was old enough to play psychotic antihero William Munny as a grizzled veteran of a bloody past, rather than someone closer to the younger Eastwood of Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy and Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971). Upon its release in August 1992, seven years after Eastwood's previous western Pale Rider, Unforgiven was praised as an uncompromising revisionist masterpiece, showcasing Eastwood's visual command of western landscapes and locations and his perceptive yet critical view of the genre's mythology and his own place in its "machinery of violence." After deliberately pacing the reemergence of Munny's pathology, Eastwood shrouds the climactic shoot-out in cinematographer Jack N. Green's dark shadows and heavy rainfall reminiscent of film noir, rendering Munny's return to Eastwood's lethal star form unsettling in its victory. Unforgiven became an unexpected serious hit in a season of popcorn movies, eventually grossing over $100 million and reviving Eastwood's star standing after a series of late '80s flops. After winning several critics' prizes, it became one of only a handful of westerns to win the Best Picture Oscar; Eastwood's status behind the camera was finally acknowledged with a Best Director statuette.