Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1992. Warner Bros., Malpaso Productions. Screenplay by David Webb Peoples. Cinematography by Jack N. Green. Produced by Clint Eastwood. Music by Lennie Niehaus. Production Design by Henry Bumstead. Costume Design by Glenn Wright. Film Editing by Joel Cox. Academy Awards 1992. Golden Globe Awards 1992.
A brothel in a tiny Wyoming frontier town becomes a den of revenge after a client viciously attacks a woman by cutting up her face. The sheriff of Big Whiskey (Gene Hackman) makes the men involved atone by giving up a few horses to the house’s owner, which gives no satisfaction to the house madam (Frances Fisher) who wants them to pay a dearer price. Miles away, rancher Clint Eastwood hears of a big reward for catching and killing these men and sets off with friend Morgan Freeman and young Jaimz Woolvett, his demons as a former drunken outlaw beginning to creep up on him as he gets closer to his goal. Eastwood also directs this richly enjoyable tale that brings the western to great success on the big screen for the first time in many years, and typical of his work subverts a primarily male genre with a healthy female element that informs the way the violence and morality are protrayed on the screen. Effectively coming across as an anti-western, this one has no one dying in a blaze of glory, with shootouts that happen on the toilet and not in legendary laneways. Men are shot in the back and women’s virtue is valued somewhere below livestock and alcohol consumption in a satisfying tale of justice and revenge that masks more thought-provoking themes of American mythmaking and the joke of frontier law, proving our ideas of the Wild West to be more the product of Hollywood films than anything out of a history book (as if to further hammer this in, David Peoples’ script includes a writer played by Saul Rubinek who is the least reliable character in the film). Beautifully photographed and designed, it’s a fine resurgence in the star’s career that led to many more classics to follow.