The most rotten, no-good, lying, cheating, killing, drunken bastard that ever walked this earth is coerced into his old ways for a bounty on a cowboy that hurt a young working gal. The once redeemed man has his patience tested in this classic Western starring Clint Eastwood.
Westerns are a genre as old as filmmaking itself. They were all the rage in the early days, and maintained a level of interest for decades. Westerns were filled with Cowboys, Indians, countless horses, gunslingers and outlaws. They were generally about the constant fight between good and evil, fugitives and law men, and infamous quick draws between opposing sides. Sometimes the ladies found themselves getting involved as well, but this was a male-dominated genre. The ladies typically filled the brothels and saloons, and catered to the passersby. It was a much simpler time. All a man had was his horse, his guns, and his pride to be concerned about.
It’s practically impossible not to think of Clint Eastwood when reminiscing about classic Westerns. Eastwood has contributed to over 50 films throughout his career. Many of which were a Western in some form or fashion. ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ , ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ , ‘Rawhide’ , ‘Hang ’em High’ , and ‘Unforgiven’ are just a sample of the ones he made. One of the most memorable scenes in the Western genre is the Mexican Standoff in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ It was a long, drawn-out scene of a three-way showdown in the middle of a graveyard. Viewers were on the edge of their seats waiting to see who’d draw first. It came as no surprise that ol’Clint had a jump on those fellas. Eastwood was at the top of his game when it came to awesome one-liners in Westerns. His chiseled appearance, calm demeanor, and unshakable character made for a very ominous experience as well. He could chill a room without moving a muscle. Clint Eastwood’s range exceeded Westerns though, as he would partake in a variety of styles and genres. He’s also had a hand in Directing several films. Two of my personal favorites are ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.’
Unforgiven is about a man named Bill Munny (Clint Eastwood). Viewers first see him as an old pig farmer struggling to make ends meet. You wouldn’t think much of him till a young gunslinger comes by in attempt to get Bill to join him on a manhunt. The ‘Schofield Kid’ (Jaimz Woolvett) says Bill was known as the meanest, cold-blooded killer there ever was. At first glance, not even he believes it. Bill claims that was a long time ago, and he’s past that life these days. He’s given up on drinking and killing to get married and raise a family. Sadly, he buried his loving wife just a few years prior. With only him left to raise two kids, Bill is short on luck and funds. Reluctantly, he decides to join The Schofield Kid. To the viewer’s surprise, we learn he has one stipulation. His old pal, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) has to partner up as well. Once an agreement is made, the bunch of misfits make their way towards the small town of Big Whiskey. It’s believed there’s a $1,000 bounty to be collected for killing a couple of no-good cowboys that cut up a woman there. That was good money back in those days, even if it’s split three ways. We find out they aren’t the only ones coming to collect though. To make things more interesting, no one is allowed to carry guns into Big Whiskey. Well, except for Sheriff ‘Little’ Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman) and his Deputies that is.
Think Bill, Ned and the Schofield Kid can get the job done and collect their bounty before getting busted by the corrupt Little Bill Daggett? You’ll have to tune in to find out!
Enough about that…let’s check out what’s included with this 4K Blu-ray release!
The menu consists of a static image of Clint Eastwood giving his infamous chiseled stare. The menu options are listed along the bottom of the screen, and include: Play, Scene Selections, Audio, Subtitles, and Commentary. The ‘Scene Selections’ option displays up to five chapters at a time. Each one is numbered and includes a snapshot of the scene. The ‘Audio’ option let’s viewers choose between: English, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Cesky, Magyar, Polish, Russian, and more! That’s a lot of audio tracks folks! The ‘Subtitles’ option includes even more languages. That’s pretty impressive. The ‘Commentary’ option lets viewers listen to an audio commentary with Clint Eastwood Biographer Richard Schickel.
Now let’s take a look at the special Features included with this release.
– Eastwood on Eastwood (1:08:34): Narrated by John Cusack, viewers get a glimpse of the life Eastwood led from a young boy on. Initially, he had no desire to become an actor. Nevertheless, folks started to take notice after he’d been in a few films. He did some good ones and some not well-received ones too. It wasn’t until his role in ‘Dirty Hairy’ when he struck true stardom. This is a fantastic bonus feature to watch. It’s over an hour long, and filled with all sorts of history on Eastwood. It’s in a 4:3 format, but certainly worth the watch. It covers a good chunk of Eastwood’s rise to fame, his move into Directing, his most memorable films, and where he’d like to go in the future. With more than an hour of running time, this documentary contains a lot of info on Clint Eastwood.
– All on Accounta Pullin’ a Trigger (22:35): This is a great documentary solely about ‘Unforgiven’. It can be said this may be one of the best Westerns ever made. This feature takes a closer look at the film and what it represents. In short, it’s about violence. Morgan Freeman headlines this documentary, and it includes interviews from Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman and others. What Clint liked about the script was how viewers never knew how the story would play out. There were multiple storylines happening, which all collided in the small town of Big Whiskey. The town had a simple rule…no guns allowed. Too bad it was such a hard rule to follow. Fans of the film have to check out this feature. This film is about violence, but it’s more about the need for anti-violence.
– Eastwood and Co.: Making Unforgiven (23:52): This is a true behind-the-scenes feature that talks about the plot of the film. The Narrator explains all of the key characters, and what it was like working on a Clint Eastwood set. The cast and crew expressed how great it was to be Directed by Clint. He was very professional, and never show-boated in front of the cast and crew. Clint also gives a little insight on his process, and admits that he didn’t have all the answers at times. If the cast was at a stalemate, Clint would let them try a few things on their own. This produced some spontaneous performances that fit nicely with the flow of the story. We also learn how Clint transformed into the iconic Actor/Director he’s known as today. His time overseas with Italian Director Sergio Leone shaped him into quiet and visually striking man he became.
– Eastwood… A Star (16:07): This is another featurette for the film, Unforgiven. It’s a promotional piece that covers the plot of the story without giving key components away. In this feature, the narrator compares this film to others Eastwood has been a part of. You’ll get to see several of the classics he’s been a part of over the decades. Viewers get to see some awesome behind-the-scenes footage in this feature too.
– “Duel at Sundown” Maverick TV Episode (49:07): This is a full episode from the Maverick TV show. If you’d like to see how an old Western TV show looked back then, as well as, a young Clint Eastwood; don’t hesitate to give this episode a viewing. It’s pretty cool.
– Theatrical Trailer (1:57): This fast-paced trailer provides an insight on what viewers can expect from the film.
Now let’s take a look at the technical side of this 4K release.
The 2160p 4K Ultra HD image comes with an aspect ratio of 2.36:1, so there are black bars along the top and bottle of your 4K display. No need to worry though, as this beautifully shot film will pull the viewer into the story from the opening shot. The wide aspect ratio allows for stunning landscapes and dramatic imagery. Eastwood did a stellar job with several of the shots/scenes in this film. He took decades of experience and knowledge into consideration when making this film, and it shows in 4K glory. Unforgiven was originally captured on film, so viewers will see grain in most shots. This doesn’t take away from the film at all though. It’s an older Western, so a little grain and muted color palette seems just right in my opinion. While the standard 2K Blu-ray looked stunning, this upscale to 4K doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp and clear in the majority of the scenes. Some of the night shots are a bit muddy, but this is to be expected.
At first glance, viewers may see a discernable improvement between the 4K and standard 2K transfer. In the opening scene with rolling text, the sunset background consist of bright and vivid orange hues. With the inclusion of High Dynamic Range (HDR), the same scene in 4K has a much more realistic color palette. It’s less-bright, but reveals more detail. The additional pixel density also provides a sharper image altogether. This 4K version is easily the best-looking release to date.
The 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio track does an alright job in this transfer. The majority of the effects and dialog take place front and center, but the rear channels are utilized for ambient effects. Most of the outdoor rainy shots have the downpour coming in from the rear. Gun fire and the musical score also find their way to the rear channels.
Overall, Unforgiven is an excellent film. It pays homage to the classics, while providing a solid anti-violence message. It’s dark, grim, full of violence, and ultimate justice. With so many storylines happening at once, many viewers may find it difficult to see how it’ll turn out in the end. This only makes the story that much more compelling to watch. Unforgiven truly is an awesome experience.
If you are looking for a solid classic Western, you have to check out Unforgiven. This 4K Blu-ray release not only looks incredible, it comes with four documentaries that’ll keep viewers and fans alike entertained for hours. Don’t hesitate to add this to your 4K Blu-ray collection!