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William Munny (Clint Eastwood) is a broken man. A hog farmer with a dead wife and two kids, he’s also a feared ex-killer. He reluctantly agrees to split a $1000 bounty with a young outlaw calling himself The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) and avenge a butchered whore in nearby Big Whiskey. Joined by Munny’s former partner Ned (Morgan Freeman), the three ride into town and deal swift justice to the guilty. But killing isn’t as easy as it used to be, and Big Whiskey’s dogmatic sheriff, Little Bill (Gene Hackman), deals his own brand of swift justice. 

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Arguably the Western that ended all westerns, Clint Eastwood’s 1992 masterpiece won four Oscars in 1992 including Best Picture, Best Director for Eastwood, and Best Supporting Actor for Hackman - who had to be talked into the role by Eastwood. Call it what you will, an anti-Western or a Western that debunks the myths of the West. This isn’t just Eastwood’s crowning achievement in his illustrious 40 year career, but a searing universal portrait of how good and evil are just a hair trigger apart. It’s about the difference between necessary and unnecessary killing, how killing corrupts men, and how reputations are often fraudulent. 

Take for instance, the character of writer Henry Beauchamp (skilfully played by Saul Rubinek), who’s searching for the ultimate Western myth. Watch as Beauchamp’s interest passes from gunslinger English Bob (a cocky Richard Harris) to Big Whiskey’s sheriff Little Bill (a Popeye Doyle-ish Hackman), who makes Bob wish he never came to town, and then, one rainy night, to William Munny, the ultimate myth who walks into Whiskey and kills anyone who crosses him.

This tenth anniversary two-disc special edition is the film’s second and much improved DVD release. The widescreen transfer is utterly beautiful, and the 5.1 digital sound is crisp and haunting. Commentary is by Eastwood biographer and Time Magazine film critic Richard Schickel, and he’s certainly an expert on the myths of the West, discussing many facets with references to other well-known Westerns – not just Eastwood’s. 

The extras disc contains four documentaries and a 1959 television episode of Maverick called Duel at Sundown, where a young Clint played a character who foreshadowed William Munny in Unforgiven. The best of the docos is All On Accounta Pullin’ a Trigger, which, hosted by Morgan Freeman, reveals the 20 year origins of the project. Eastwood, Freeman, Hackman, and screenwriter David Web Peoples all make interesting comments on the film’s anti-western narrative, on the tyranny of violence and how the movie reverses many of the Western’s traditions. Hal Holbrook narrates a compelling 23-minute making-of doco on-location in Calgary, Canada, and a 16-minute Eastwood doco features a quick run-down of his career. For greater detail, there’s a whopping 68-minute Eastwood on Eastwood doco narrated by John Cusack, which looks at almost every film in his career but seems somewhat out of place here. Otherwise, a magnificent DVD that must find a stable in any good collection.

Published November 7, 2002

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(US - 1992)

CAST: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Richard Harris, Jamie Woolvett, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher, Anna Levine, David Mucci

DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood

RUNNING TIME: 131 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 23, 2002

PRESENTATION: Widescreen anamorphic transfer, 2.35:1; Dolby Digital 5.1; Technical Specs

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Eastwood biographer and TIME Magazine film critic, Richard Schickel; Unforgiven Documentary; Making Unforgiven; Eastwood Documentary; Eastwood on Eastwood; Maverick: Duel at Sundown; Cast and Crew; Awards; Theatrical Trailer;

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