This is the western to end all westerns, or a coda of sorts to the western movie as popularized in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Clint said it would be his last western which should tell you enough. But it’s bigger than the western genre. It’s a morality tale that squashes the romanticism of violence in all forms. It’s also one of the most all-around satisfying movies you will ever see. Great acting? Check. Realistic fascist villain? Check. (Gene Hackman? Check). Interesting story? Check. Awesome dialogue? Check. Moral ambiguity? Checkola. Best ending ever? Quite possibly.
Clint is William Munny, an aging ex-thief/murderer that has turned good and sober on account of his poor dead wife. He is roused from his simple farming life for one more score by a young wannabe gunslinger (Jaimz Woolvett) who calls himself the Schofield Kid, in order to avenge the mutilation of a prostitute in Big Whiskey, Wyoming and collect the $1000 reward offered by the whores. Little Bill (Hackman) is the sheriff of Big Whiskey and doesn’t take too kindly to assassins. Munny agrees to help the Kid as long as they can bring his friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). Enter conflict and resolve!
It’s not a very unique story, but the originality comes in with the way that Eastwood treats the material. The style is anti-romantic. He’s deliberately trying to deflate the myth of the graceful cowboys that never miss a shot and can kill a hundred men without blinking an eye. Instead, we get Munny, who can’t properly mount a horse anymore, his friend Ned who doesn’t have the nerves to make the kill, and the Kid who boasts about killing but can’t hit anything from more than 20 feet. We quickly find out that Munny was only bad-ass because he was drunk most of the time, and that he only survived because he was lucky.
One of the best ways that Eastwood satirizes this romanticism is with the character of W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek), a western writer who is shadowing English Bob (Richard Harris) in order to churn out more of his pulp novels. He has a little boy’s wonder in the face of these old-time legends like Bob, Little Bill and William Munny. Bob and Little Bill encourage his awe and try to embellish it, but when he asks Munny about always killing the best shooter first as a matter of strategy, Munny responds, “I was lucky in the order, but I’ve always been lucky when it comes to killin’ folks.” This movie has pound-for-pound the best lines of any movie I’ve ever seen. And they’re all delivered pitch-perfect by a worn-out, grizzled Eastwood.
Read some of these lines and tell me you don’t want to see the movie (spoilers):
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. . . . 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 you 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.
Will Munny: Hell of a thing, killin’ a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess he had it comin’.
Will Munny: We all got it comin’, kid.
The Schofield Kid: I ain’t never killed no one before that, Will.
Will Munny: Well you sure killed the hell outta this one today.
Little Bill Daggett: You, sir, are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man.
Will Munny: Well he should have armed himself if he’s gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.
Little Bill Daggett: You’d be William Munny out of Missouri; killer of women and children.
Will Munny: That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawls at one time or another; and I’m here to kill you Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.
Bill Daggett: I don’t deserve this… to die like this. I was building a house.
Will Munny: Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it. [aims gun]
Little Bill Daggett: I’ll see you in hell, William Munny.
Will Munny: Yeah. [fires]
Munny: “All right now, I’m comin’ out. Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only gonna kill him, but I’m gonna kill his wife. All his friends. Burn his damn house down. . . You better bury Ned right; and don’t go cuttin’ up… nor otherwise harm no whores, or I’ll come back and kill every one of you sons-a-bitches.”
I would say that if a movie gives you goosebumps just from typing out some of its lines, it’s safe to say that said movie is fucking awesome. If you don’t want to see it after all you’ve read here, I have no further use for you. Goodbye.
24 March 2010