"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..."
Eastwood got his start in TV westerns in the US and became a big screen
star playing in westerns that were Italian made. In his 1994 Academy
Award winning film Unforgiven, Eastwood returns to the genre that
has been so good to him and takes a realistic look at gunfighters from
the old west. One of the
best westerns ever made, it shows how quickly things can spin out of control when viloence is the only resorce people use. This powerful film has now come to Blu-ray with a nice
transfer that's a distinct improvement over the SD disc and also includes
all of the bonus features that are included on the 2-disc DVD set.
When a new prostitute in the city of Big Whiskey Montana, Delilah (Anna
Levine), reactively snickers at the size of a drunken cowboy's penis, he
flys into a rage and cuts her face up with a Bowie knife. He, and
the friend he rode into town with are subdued and the sheriff, an old-time
gunfighter named Little Bill (Gene Hackman) is called for.
The whores want the two men to be hanged, but Little Bill is going to
let them off with a whipping until the owner of the bar/house of ill repute
complains that he's out a lot of money. After all, he paid for Delilah
to come out from Texas, and now she's ruined as a working girl. Little
Bill fines the men a total of six ponies and lets them go.
This is outrageous as far as the other prostitutes are concerned.
If nothing happens to the men who slashed Delilah, what's to stop others
from doing the same thing? They take matters into their own hands,
pool their resources, and put a price of $1000 on the heads of the two
men who maimed Delilah.
Munny (Clint Eastwood) used to be the toughest, meanest hombre around until
he met the woman who would become his wife. He gave up drinking and
fighting for her, and settled down to farming. After she gave him
two children, Will's wife died of Smallpox. He still was true to
her spirit though, and stayed on the farm to make a go of it.
The only thing is he wasn't cut out to be a farmer. His pigs are
sick and he's low on cash, so when a young man who's heard of Munny's reputation
rides up, Munny listens to what he has to say. The man calls himself
the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett), and has heard of $1000 reward for killing
two cowboys. He offers to split the money with Munny for his help.
After thinking about it, Munny agrees and he heads off with the kid and
his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman).
Meanwhile in Big Whiskey, Little Bill has heard about the reward and
isn't about to see his town turned into a shooting range. He's seen
what assassins can do, and so he takes steps to see that none of them come
into his town. He's a gunfighter from the old days too, and he knows
how to take care of business.
thing that sets this movie apart from so many other westerns is not only
the realistic depiction of violence, but the repercussions from it too.
Unlike all the TV shows set in the old west (and detective shows too, for
that matter) violence has effects. When someone is beaten up, they
aren't jumping around in the next scene; they're laid up for days or worse.
A beating is a sever thing in this movie, as it is in real life.
The movie also shows how violence begets violence. After Delilah
gets beaten, more and more people are hurt and killed because no one is
willing to stop the cycle.
Another aspect of this movie that is impressive is that the tight scripts
shows how just about everyone is doing what they think is right.
The whores are just trying to protect themselves by issuing the reward,
the sheriff is trying to protect the citizens, and Munny and Ned honestly
think, from the story that they've been told, that these cowboys deserve
to die. Even the cowboys try to make amends only to have their gesture
thrown back in their faces. This isn't a movie of right verses wrong,
it's a movie of right verses right, which make it all the more tragic.
It has been said that Clint Eastwood can only play one character, and
there is some truth in that. But he plays that character very well.
In this movie the aging gunslinger is tortured by his past. He sees
people that he killed years ago in his sleep, and every time a stranger
rides up to his ranch he's afraid that it's someone out gunning for him.
He plays a character who hates himself and what he's done, but is trying
to be a better person. The scene between he and Delilah, when she
offers him a "free one" and he turns it down because he's being faithful
to his dead wife is very telling and touching, without being sappy.
Gene Hackman also does a good job as Little Bill. A down to Earth
soft spoken man, he seems to be the voice of reason. When the head
prostitute complains that the men who cut up Delilah aren't even going
to be whipped, he pulls her asides and asks "Haven't you seen enough blood
tonight?" But when gunslingers show up in his town, he turns into
a hard, cold, man who knows what he has to do in order to save his town.
He gives a superb performance.
The 2.40:1 image on this Blu-ray disc looks very good, significantly
better than its SD counterpart, and would be a nice addition to anyone's
collection. The level of detail is superb. Fine details are
strong, with the crags, creases, and stubble in Clint Eastwood's face being
clearly defined. The large outdoor scenes are just as impressive.
The Montana scenery, with wide open skies and snow covered mountaintops,
is beautiful and the shots of people riding through the countryside pop
nicely. The only real qualm I have is that some of the scenes are
a little soft, especially in low light situations. This is a minor
flaw however and not prevalent throughout the film.
The scene where Gene Hackman confronts Clint Eastwood in the bar in
Big Whiskey is a good example of how this disc improves over the standard
definition release. Going for a natural look, the interior of the
bar is very dark and filled with shadows. While some of the details
do get lost in the darkness, the scene has better definition and a more
realistic feel than the SD disc. The blacks are dark and solid, and
the many shades of brown that fill the movie are distinct.
On the digital side, things look very good. This 50GB disc has
plenty of room for the film and bonus features and compression artifacts
such as posterization were not a problem.
For audio tracks viewers get their pick of an English DD 5.1 track or
stereo tracks in Spanish and French. The English track sounds pretty
much identical to the track on the 10th anniversary SD release, and that's
no necessarily a bad thing. The movie is mainly dialog driven and
so just about all of the action is from the front. The rears are
used, but not for flashy audio panning, more for atmosphere. The
rain at the end of the movie is a good example, surrounding the viewer
while not detracting from the dialog. The dynamic range was fine
and while the .1 channel was only employed sparingly, it was effective.
This disc ports over all of the bonus items from the two-disc standard
definition DVD release from a few years back, and it's great that BDs are
finally getting all of the extras that their lower definition counterparts
have. These extras are all presented with 480 lines of resolution.
First off is a commentary track by Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel.
Schickel is a friend of Eastwood's (the man himself doesn't do commentaries)
and was on location for the filming so he is well prepared to talk about
this film and Eastwood's work. The track did have some sizable gaps
in comments, but what it lacked in quantity it made up for in quality.
This is an enjoyable track that had a lot of information about the characters
in the film as well as Eastwood himself.
There are four documentaries too. Eastwood on Eastwood
is an hour long look at the star, filled with clips from his many movies.
Produced and directed by Richard Schickel, and narrated by John Cusack,
Eastwood himself is prominently featured. This is a nice overview
of the man's work.
All on Accounta Pullin' a Triger is a series of more recent interviews
with the cast of the movie, and it comes across as fluff, unfortunately.
A good amount of the 22 minute running time is devoted to clips from the
film, and it just doesn't have the meat that I was hoping for. The
promotional piece that was made at the time the film was released, Eastwood
& Co.: Making Unforgiven, is a much better piece and features
behind the scenes footage. Eastwood...A Star is a pretty horrid
short overview on Clint's career, and is not really worth watching.
Though it was made at the same time as Unforgiven, it comes across
like a 1970's retrospective with horrible music and hokey narration.
The extras are wrapped up an episode of the TV show Maverick
from 1959 that features Eastwood. This was a nice thing to include,
though an episode of Rawhide would have also worked well.
In a lot of ways this film is the final word on gunfighter movies.
Eastwood created a wonderful anti-violence film without being preachy or
heavy handed. This film won the Best Picture Academy Award in 1994
(along with 31 other major awards from various organizations) and it truly
deserved it. This Blu-ray disc looks wonderful and I'm glad to report
that this disc has all of the extras that the SD DVD has. Highly
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.