I think Clint Eastwood made the best western movie of all time. Unfortunately, a lot of folks mistakenly think that the movie is Unforgiven. Uh, those people are wrong. The Outlaw Josey Wales is the best western ever made.
I guess Unforgiven is a good film noir, but it is a lousy western. The Outlaw Josey Wales had just as much depth as Unforgiven without sacrificing any of its’ characters’ dignity to achieve it.
The character Josey Wales loses his family and home to Union Red Legs at the outset of the movie. He had been a peaceful man. But now, having lost everything he loved, he must go to war and ultimately becomes a fugitive who must constantly defend himself from bounty hunters and Union Soldiers alike.
Does he have a conscience? Sure. We see it demonstrated quite a bit. For example, at one point in the movie, he tries to warn a man who is after the reward money on Wale’s head. He says to the bounty hunter, “Dying ain’t much of a living , boy.”
The point of The Outlaw Josey Wales is that life should be respected and cherished. Wales wants to live peacefully with his friends and his freaky blond girlfriend. He offers his “word of life” to the Comanche Chief, Ten Bears. After he avenges the deaths of his wife and son, we know that, if he is ever left to his own devices, he won’t be doing any more killing.
Unforgiven says much the same thing. Sadly, though, Unforgiven seems to say it in the same whiny voice your grandmother might use if you forgot to call her on her birthday.
I know it’s an intentionally sad movie. It’s supposed to make you think. But, aren’t westerns supposed to be fun to watch?
Unforgiven displays the darkness of the human soul. Yeah, ok, sure, but where is my western?
So, here’s an Unforgiven quote for you. Clint’s character Munny says, “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”
How thoughtful! He is the quintessential philosopher/gunfighter. Here’s the kicker, though. He’s saying this to another man!
I had never before in my life heard two men just talking about their feelings.
Men, historically, just don’t tell other men about it when they are feeling kinda weepy. They will tell women about their feelings, but most of them need to be coerced into doing even that. (Note: Men also don’t try to get other men to “open up”. You see the problem here? Realism.)
Not that this wouldn’t be totally acceptable behavior to me, except that the first time I ever saw this amazing display of male sensitivity was not on the Ricki Lake Show or even on Oprah. No, it was that conversation between Munny and “The Kid” in Unforgiven where he spouts off that line about what a “hell of a thing” it is to kill someone.
Cowboys are so open about their feelings and so emotional about death and dying. Wait, are we talking about Steel Magnolias? I see a striking parallel here.
But, I honestly got the impression while watching Unforgiven that the women of Steel Magnolias could have taken out the whole lot of Unforgiven “cowboys” without breaking even one manicured nail.
I can see it now. The Unforgiven “cowboys” are sitting around the saloon, reading some existential philosophy like Sartre and brooding as they so love to do. The Magnolia Gang just comes through the door and breaks every whiskey bottle in the place over their heads. Julia Roberts’ character Shelby has to give herself an insulin shot half-way through the fight, because she is diabetic. But, she goes back to kicking ass soon enough. In the end, the score is Magnolias 7, Unforgivens 0.
Clint, if you want to make a chick flick, make a chick flick. No one will judge you. Jus
t please don’t dress up a bunch of women in hats and boots and try to pass them off as cowboys. I’m not buying it. I didn’t bury my copy of Unforgiven, and I’ll tell you why. “Buzzards gotta eat, same as worms.”