William Munny has a gun in his hands. This is bad for anyone who isn't William Munny... actually, no, it's bad for him, too.
"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got... all he's ever gonna have."
A Western from 1992, written by David Peoples and directed by star Clint Eastwood.In the town of Big Whiskey, normal people are trying to lead quiet lives. Cowboys are trying to make a living. Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) is trying to build a house and keep a heavy-handed order. The girls of the town's brothel are just trying to get by. But when two cowboys cut up one of the brothel's girls, who goes by the name of Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Levine), the prostitutes are not satisfied with Little Bill's justice and put out a $1,000 bounty on the heads of both cowboys, Quick Mike and Davey Bunting.William Munny (Eastwood) is a Retired Gunfighter, having been influenced by his late wife Claudia into giving up his murderous ways to become a normal farmer, living in peace with their two children. However, he is drawn back into a life of killing when Gunfighter Wannabe the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) offers to split the reward on the bounty, and Munny accepts to alleviate his family's financial difficulties. Together with his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman), Munny and the Kid set off on one last job, and in the process run foul of Little Bill. In the ensuing hostilities, the ruthless demon that laid dormant within Munny is unleashed with a vengeance.This film won Best Picture. It also scored Eastwood his first Oscar for directing as well as statues for the editor and supporting actor Gene Hackman.A Japanese Foreign Remake is in production starring Ken Watanabe.
Provides Examples Of:
Affably Evil: When he's not in Knight Templar mode, Little Bill can be fun to hang around with. He even takes on the writer English Bob brought into town, who is more fascinated with Bill's tales.
The Alcoholic: Munny used to be one; he was drunk during his most famous exploits.
Animals Hate Him: When he cannot mount his own horse, William Munny claims that his horse is taking revenge on him because he was mean with all the animals in his past. See Badass Boast to know how much Munny had mistreated and killed animals.
Anti-Hero: Also Anti-Villain. None of the main characters are truly heroic or villainous. Except for Ned, who has lost the stomach for killing... and ends up getting killed for it anyway.
A World Half Full: This tale seems to be told in a Crapsack World... until we realize that Claudia has been dead for years and she still has influence over Munny... it could be said that this is her tale... how she still manages to be the only light in the The Western darkness.
Subverted with English Bob, who tells Beauchamp these beautiful bad ass speeches when he performed his 'exploits'... only to have Little Bill debunk the claim by noting "The Duck of Death" shot first and In the Back with most of the gunfights Bob himself started.
Badass Grandpa: While not technically a grandfather, William Munny is more than old enough to be one.
DEFINITELY Little Bill, who's even older than Munny. Just watch him when he stares down the barrel of Munny's shotgun and calmly tells his men to kill Munny after he's dead. No matter what you think of him, the man has INCREDIBLE balls.
Band of Brothels - when one of theirs is maimed by a bad john, the working girls pool their resources and put a bounty on the wrongdoers' heads, kicking off the action.
Being Good Sucks: Kind of. It's noticeable that during his period of trying to be good, Munny is an unsuccessful pig farmer eking out a wretched existence, is wracked by guilt, and comes across as kind of pathetic (note how often he falls off his horse, his beating by Little Bill). After returning to his old ways, he becomes a scarily effective gunfighter and the epilogue indicates he became financially successful. Not to mention that things don't turn out well for Ned after he admits he's lost his stomach for killing and tries to return home.
Bittersweet Ending: Munny goes back to his old ways and Ned is murdered, but Munny avenges him. And with the money he earns from the bounty on the two cowboys, he's able to move on and make a better life for himself—rumored to be San Francisco, where he prospered in dry goods.
Closing narration: ...And there was nothing on the marker to explain to Mrs. Feathers why her only daughter had married a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.
Chinese Laborer: Apparently, English Bob earned a living killing them for the railroads.
Chekhov's Gun: Little Bill explains to Beauchamp, at length, about how proper aim trumps speed in a real gunfight. Illustrated bloodily during the movie's climactic gunfight: Munny systematically guns down the men surrounding him while standing still in a cramped bar due to the fact that everyone's so freaked out by his ruthless execution of the owner and Bill.
Though Munny mentions that it has as much to do with pure luck as anything else.
Dead Guy on Display: Done with Ned. Munny is angry and ready to kill by this point, but seeing Ned's body out in the open like that visibly enrages him further.
Deconstruction: Of Western movies. Munny himself is a deconstruction of the kinds of characters Clint Eastwood played in the 60s and 70s.
One aspect of this is how the movie shows Munny dealing with his re-submersion into the violent, dangerous environment he left behind before he became a family man. He doesn't become a more heroic figure, rising to the occasion. Instead, he degrades, with his layers of civility being stripped away until at the end, he's the cold-blooded killer he once was.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: A major part of the film's goal of de-romanticizing the West: racism (whether against Englishmen, "Chinamen" or "injuns") is rampant, prostitutes are seen as the scum of the earth (Skinny refers to the cut-up prostitute as "damaged property") and an exchange of goods is seen as acceptable punishment for slicing them up. Unfortunately, all of this period-appropriate realism makes the fact that Ned's skin colour is not even remarked upon, never mind serving as a plot point, extremely jarring. This was heavily criticized by the film's detractors (Ned was presumably not written with Morgan Freeman in mind).
The movie takes place in 1881, well after the civil war. At that time, a lot of blacks (many former slaves from the South) were living and working in the American west.
Dime Novel: W.W. Beauchamp writes these. One example is "The Duck of Death", about English Bob.
Actually, that's supposed to be the "Duke" of-
Duck, I says.
Disproportionate Retribution: Davey, the second of the two cowboys whose actions started the plot, attempted to stop his friend from hurting Delilah and when the two of them came to pay compensation to Skinny he attempted to give her a pony as part of a personal apology to her, which the other whores refused to accept out of anger. The whores put a price on his head anyway and he's killed by the protagonists. With a slow gutshot. After they break his leg by shooting his horse out from under him.
The whole movie is about this: Quick Mike's cutting up of Delilah for laughing at his small penis. Little Bill's refusal for shedding more blood, instead forcing the cowboys to pay horses to the saloon owner. The whores' sending out bounties on the cowboys, little realizing what kind of bounty hunters that would attract. Little Bill beating the crap out of English Bob, not just as a warning to bounty hunters but for personal reasons. The whores refusing Davey's direct apology and gift to Delilah, leaving the bounty on him for Munny to shoot him. Little Bill whipping poor Ned to death with the saloon keeper displaying the corpse like a trophy. And the final shootout...
Little Bill: I don't... deserve to die like this! I was building a house...
Will Munny: Deserve's got nothing to do with it...
Driven to Suicide: According to the original script, The Schofield Kid drowns himself out of guilt.
Even Evil Has Standards: After killing the men at the saloon, when a writer asks him who did he chose first, (in an effort to romanticize the brutal events that Munny committed) Munny rejects it by threatening him with death. All the players in the movie were eager to justify their Disproportionate Retribution but Munny: He knows that he did evil things once and he’s doing evil things now, and that for that he will go to hell. He will not try to hide that from himself or anyone else.
Evil Counterpart: English Bob to Will Munny except he's just a vicious coward who was trying to cash in on his reputation.
An argument could be made that, in as much as 'good' and 'evil' are meaningful concepts in this movie, Will Munny is the Evil Counterpart to English Bob. Consider the way both of them end their time in the town; English Bob is kicked out in disgrace with his reputation in tatters, exposed as a coward and for all his ineffectual ranting and raving about how he'll return and make them all pay he's basically a joke. Will Munny leaves of his own accord with a room full of bodies behind him, and when he promises that he'll come back and make them all pay if they give him cause to return, there's probably not a person in the town who doubts his sincerity or ability to make good on his threats. Which one's the evil one again?
Gag Penis: As Little Bill tells to Beauchamp, English Bob once killed a man who was nicknamed "Two-Gun Corcoran", though he carried only one gun.
Gossip Evolution: When the Schofield Kid tells Munny about the attack, he says that the cowboys had cut out Delilah's eyes and cut off her ears, neither of which was true. When Munny tells Ned about it, he adds that they cut off her fingers and her breasts.
Grievous Bottley Harm: Subverted. Munny attempts it, doesn't work, and he gets his ass kicked for trying.
Gun Porn: Most westerns depict everyone carrying a Winchester rifle, a Colt Peacemaker, or a double-barreled shotgun (largely due to the use of the five-in-one blank round in movie production). Unforgiven features a very wide selection of old-west firearms, and several are identified by name.
The Gunslinger: If they're not a whore, they're a gunslinger. Or a writer.
"What, letters and such?"
Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Certainly Delilah who is characterized as the sweetest and most innocent of the working girls. Deconstructed with Strawberry Alice, the caring big sister of the group. While she does look after Delilah after she's hurt, she's also eager for revenge and shows no remorse for getting it.
Will Munny:I ain't like that no more. I ain't the same, Ned. Claudia, she straightened me up, cleared me of drinkin' whiskey and all. Just 'cause we're goin' on this killing, that don't mean I'm gonna go back to bein' the way I was. I just need the money, get a new start for them youngsters. Ned, you remember that drover I shot through the mouth and his teeth came out the back of his head? I think about him now and again. He didn't do anything to deserve to get shot, at least nothin' I could remember when I sobered up.
Ned Logan:You were crazy, Will.
Will Munny:Yeah, no one liked me. Mountain boys all thought I was gonna shoot 'em out of pure meanness.
Ned Logan:Well, like I said, you ain't like that no more.
Will Munny:That's right. I'm just a fella now. I ain't no different than anyone else no more.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Discussed, and ultimately Deconstructed. The deputies in the final showdown panic, blaze away at Munny and hit exactly zip. Munny, on the other hand, keeps a cool head and rations out a bullet for each one.
That said, at the start of the film Munny is a horrible shot, missing a tin can with all six shots at close range. This leads him to bring a shotgun along just in case. It's only after he discovers that Ned is dead, that he gets his old focus back.
Munny also apparently works best while drunk. He drinks a bottle of whisky (his first in the movie) before entering Skinny's for the showdown.
This is Truth in Television: Revolvers of the time were notoriously inaccurate, even at close range. So as Little Bill says, accuracy trumps speed, and in fact shooting faster would likely make it less accurate, not more. Plus, Munny admits he's "always been lucky in killin' folks."
Insistent Terminology: Little Bill's insistence on refering to English Bob as the Duck (of Death) rather than the Duke.
Little Bill and his deputies repeatedly refer to bounty hunters as "assassins" as a kind of insult.
Instant Death Bullet: Subverted: Munny shoots one of the targets in the gut, and he dies slowly and painfully. A few of his victims after the final shootout can be seen slowly writhing on the floor in obvious agony. Little Bill doesn't die from the first shot either.
Karma Houdini: Will is the most notorious outlaw the west had ever seen and he was able to move west without ever really paying for his crimes. He doesn't receive any punishment for the massacre in the saloon either.
Munny knows full well he's going to Hell for what he done.
Miles Gloriosus: The Schofield Kid. English Bob is shown to be an excellent pistol marksman (shooting birds in flight from a moving train with a pistol is no mean feat), but he has no stomach for actual fighting.
Subverted a bit in that Munny was drunk most of the time and doesn't remember all the details either.
Not So Different: Part of the point of the movie is that the forces of law and order and the forces of criminality and villainy in the Old West often weren't as different as later mythologizing have made them out to be.
Off the Wagon: Munny has quit drinking, but he drinks a bottle of whisky before the final showdown.
Oh Crap: First by Little Bill when Munny confronts him in the saloon, then by Munny as his weapon misfires.
Pet the Dog: By the end, the entire film feels like one of these.
After shooting a man, who is lying in agony begging for a drink of water, Will Munny shouts out to the man's friends to "Give him a drink of water for Christ's sake! We ain't gonna shoot!" This might also be a Mercy Kill, since when you have a wound in the guts, a drink of water will end your misery rather fast.
Posthumous Character: The Lost Lenore: Claudia Munny was dead before the beginning, but Munny will talk about her whenever he has any chance. At the end of the movie we know how much her character influenced him and the whole story.
Quick Draw: Mostly subverted; the ones who draw and start blazing away without taking time to properly aim end up dead while a slower, but more accurate, gunfighter shoots them. Lampshaded by Little Bill when he's talking to the writer.
Little Bill: Look here. *draws quickly but not overly fast* That's about as fast as I can draw and aim and hit anything more than ten feet away. Unless it's a barn.
A Real Man Is a Killer: The whole point of the film is to point out that you'd have to be pretty cold-blooded or crazy to work as a gunfighter.
Reconstruction: while the movie is primarily a Deconstruction the final fight scene is more or less played straight and Munny isn't portrayed as in the wrong. Word Of God says that the movie wasn't so much violence is bad as it is violence is complex and only applicable in certain situations.
Redemption Failure: Munny is a former badman, who tried to make a go at being a farmer. When his farm fails he decides to take just one more job and for a time goes back to his old ways. (Although it's hinted at at the end that he eventually returned to a mundane life once more.)
Little Bill, too. By his own admission he is a bad man, but he's trying to make a go of it by being a sheriff. He just happens to piss off the wrong assassin.
Retired Monster: There's a reason why Will Munny is Unforgiven. He doesn't seem to really regret his previous life all that much, except when it comes to his deceased wife. Once he gets a little booze in his system and a gun, Munny goes right back to his old ways.
It had nothing to do with the alcohol. Munny was pissed at what they did to Ned. The fact that he was taking his first swig of alcohol since his monstrous old days was merely a sign of how bad things were about to get.
Since Munny is the ultimate evil drunk, that first (and subsequent) swig was literal nightmare fuel—just what he needed to "get in the mood."
Little Bill describes both English Bob and himself as bad men, implying he thinks they both are this
Retired Gunfighter: Both Will Munny and Ned Logan were retired and had families, until the Kid convinced them to come.
William Munny. Funnily enough, it seems that the real facts about Will Munny's exploits are more fantastical than the urban legends.
English Bob is a subversion. While he does seem to have some genuine skills (shooting a bird in flight from a moving train with a pistol is quite a feat), it seems likely that most of his exploits are padded.
Subverted also when the Schofield Kid is babbling about his kill. "He reached for his gun and I shot him." In truth the dead man had his hands raised, and his gun was well out of reach.
Which is probably how most of the myths come around. What the kid said was true but he was semi-coherent and missed the middle part (The dead man reached for his gun, his gun moved out of reach as the door opened, he tried raising his hands instead and the kid shot him with his hands raised). There's also probably a bit of selective rewriting of history going on in the process, since given the mood the Kid is in he would probably rather remember (and have others remember) that he shot a man who was preparing to shoot himself rather than that he shot an unarmed and entirely defenceless man.
Saloon Owner: Skinny decides to put Ned's corpse on display (or was told to by Little Bill), prompting Munny to blow him down with a shotgun and deliver one of the best lines of his career: "He should've armed himself, if he's gonna decorate his saloon with my friend."
A Taste of the Lash: Little Bill captures Ned and wants information, immediately breaking out the whip. Ned does not survive.
Teeny Weenie: Delilah was attacked by Quick Mike because she laughed at his small penis.
The Schofield Kid, arguably: he continually asserts that the two cowboys "had it coming", even while bawling his eyes out from guilt.
"We all have it coming, kid."
Unreliable Narrator: In keeping with the overall Deconstruction of the Western, a running theme throughout the movie is that many of the characters are either actively trying to rewrite their pasts in order to make them seem better than they were, or have hazy recollections of them to begin with. These fraudulent and flawed recollections then go on to become myths of the west.
Villainy Discretion Shot: Judging from the details given on their backstories, English Bob, Munny, and Ned did some pretty horrific things in the past. Part of the reason they can remain sympathetic is that those things are only described, not shown.