In Unforgiven, the romantic ideas of the gun slinging cowboy are brought to a much darker light. After a couple of cowboys cut up the face of a whore, their punishment is just to give the saloon owner a few horses. The poor girl will be labeled hideous and useless for the rest of her life, so to seek justice, all the whores in the saloon pull their savings together and put a one thousand dollar bounty on the men who cut the girl’s face. That sort of paid vigilante work attracts a young man who calls himself The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) who passes the news onto Will Munny(Clint Eastwood).
Munny was once one of the most dangerous men around. He would drink whisky and shoot a man for no real reason. But when he married, Munny gave up that rough life for her and she bore him two children before she died of smallpox. Now, with two growing children to feed and the farm work not paying too well, Munny decides to recruit his old friend Ned (Morgan Freeman) and catch up to The Schofeild Kid to ride out on one last job.
The film is set in 1880, where the wild west is becoming more tame. Guns aren’t even allowed in the town of Big Whiskey. It’s only the old timers like Munny and Ned who remember the real wild west, helped shape it and have now settled down on their own farms and under the roofs of cabins. It is the young men, The Schofield Kid and knife-happy cowboys, who seem to want to go back and live out their father’s tales of gun slinging, lawlessness and chaos.
Problem is, I feel like the older men just let this happen, maybe for old-time’s sake. Munny decides it’s convenient, he needs the money, time for one last run. Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) is building himself a nice little cabin to settle in and yet he kicks the shit out of English Bob (Richard Harris) in the middle of town. Later Daggett pushes Munny too far and the wild west explodes with all it’s old violence and destruction one last time.
Perhaps they let this play out to show the young men that being a wild west outlaw isn’t all whiskey, women, gun smoke and riding off into the sunset. There are some real dangers, repercussions to your actions and pain in your soul you’ll live with all your life.
In the end, Unforgiven is a gritty western that spits on classic romantic ideas of wild west cowboys. Do we honor Munny and The Schofield Kid as heroes for serving justice or villains for gunning down these men?
“It’s a hell of a thing killin’ a man. Take away all he’s got, and all he’s gonna have.”