Unforgiven Review - Neon - December 12, 2018
It’s that time of year again. A new set, is being released, and it is my responsibility to fulfill one of the most important roles in the Eternal community. Move over tournament organizers and Reddit mods, there is one duty that only one man can do. That’s right, it is time for me to take up my sacred task of “Critic Of Western Movies for Authorizing New Sets” (or “COWMANS” for short). For those new to Eternal, it might be necessary to explain the history behind this role. It began in June of 2017, when I convinced Scarlatch to give us the approximate date for the release of Omens of the Past in exchange for a review of Lonesome Dove. Through that moment a special relationship was born, in which all future expansions must be blessed by my western movie reviews before they could be released. This past is so special that I don’t even understand it! But the job of the COWMANS is not to ask questions, but to review westerns, which is exactly what I intend to do!
And with that, let’s talk Unforgiven.
If you have read my previous Western reviews, there is a recurring theme – bad life choices. The movie starts with one person making a poor decision, to which everyone responds by making absolutely idiotic choices, causing the first person to making a truly moronic choice. This cycle continues until everyone is dead or the movie ends. Let’s give an example from the Defiance spoilers. Imagine you play a Wanted Poster on your opponent’s Grenadin. This is a dicey move, but you then follow it up with a Display of Vision.
While a normal person would choose the -1/-1 mode to kill the Grenadin and draw 2 cards, a Western character would choose the “Kill an attachment on an enemy” targeting the Wanted Poster. This is the key to every Western film as far as I can tell – put a problem in front of your characters. This problem could be solved through a logical approach, but instead they mess it up horribly. Repeat this for about 2 hours. Mix in some pan shots of the rugged outdoors. Preferably hire Clint Eastwood somewhere along the way. It is incredible. You know that moment when you are playing against Rakano Aggro when you sense you are about to get hit by Harsh Rule? A moment ago you thought you were playing a normal game following familiar patterns, but you suddenly realize that you are actually in a mad house, where nothing makes sense and anything could happen. That is what it is like watching Westerns.
So with that context, let’s talk about Unforgiven. The movie starts in the town of Big Whiskey, in the back rooms of a bar/brothel. A cowboy is getting busy with a prostitute when we hear a scuffle in the other room. The cowboy quickly gets up to check what is happening, and we see that another cowboy (apparently a friend of cowboy #1) is trying to stab another prostitute. Cowboy #1 begins to help out in this stabbing business, but the bartender/owner “Slim” shows up with a gun to spoil the fun.
Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to appreciate that Scarlatch asked me to review a movie that involves stabbing a prostitute as a key moment in the plot. What a world.
Anyway, what follows from here is an incredibly irrational series of events that sets the entire movie in motion. I’m going to do this in point form for the sake of driving this home, and just highlight all the stupid decisions that were made along the way.
We learn that cowboy #2 tried to stab the prostitute because she laughed at the size of his “pecker”. (Bad choice #1)
Cowboy #2 tries to stab the prostitute. (Bad choice #2)
Slim stops the attack, and gets Little Bill the Sheriff.
Little Bill decides that instead of hanging or jail time he will give the cowboys a whipping. (Bad choice #3)
Slim says that this isn’t good enough, since cutting up his prostitutes represents a damage to his property. (Not exactly a “bad choice” but simply an “asshole choice”)
Little Bill decides to let the cowboys go on the condition that they bring Slim some ponies in the spring. No whipping. (Bad choice #4)
The prostitutes are – understandably – upset by this. They decide to pool together their money to offer a $1, 000 bounty on the cowboys. (Bad choice #5)
See what I mean about bad decisions? Literally everyone is a moron! We are like 10 minutes into the movie and I already hate every single character. Cool cool coooool.
Ok, so we are off to a rough start, but now we cut to the ranch of Will Muney, who is played by Clint Eastwood. He is on the older side, and has two kids that look to be between 5-10 years old. He is (unsuccessfully) wrestling with some hogs when a guy rides up who is in his early twenties. He introduces himself as the “Scofield Kid”, named after the gun he carries. I would say that is a pretty lame, but my online handle is an inert gas, so I can’t really talk. Still, two minutes into the “Scofield Kid” being on screen, I am already having the same reaction I had to this card:
Wow, this looks annoying.
I am going to be seeing a lot of this card over the next while aren’t I?
Oh man… the more I think about this card the more annoying it is. Welp, buckle up I guess.
The Scofield Kid is intensely obnoxious. He clearly thinks he is tough, but he seems like an absolute wimp. And his voice is like nails on a chalkboard. You remember that kid from high school who was 5-foot-nothing, but would always get up in everyone’s grill to show how tough he is? Apparently, they cast that exact guy in this movie. His goal is to recruit Will Muney on the hunt for these cowboys. Apparently Will used to be a bad-ass in a former life, but has since settled down, and lost his edge after his wife died. In fact, Will looks kinda like this guy right now.
So the Scofield Kid leaves, and Will goes back to durdling around his ranch looking useless. Eventually he changes his mind, and decides to go off after the Kid for unclear reasons. As he is leaving, he tells his children that he will be gone for a couple weeks and that they should look after themselves. Reminder: there is no mother around, as she dies a few years back as the film reminds us about 227 times. Will is just leaving two school age kids to fend for themselves in the middle of nowhere while he is gone for weeks on a bounty-hunting expedition. Clearly, this epidemic of bad life choices was not confined to prostitute-stabbing-cowboys. Very cool.
Anyway, we go off next to visit Ned, played by Morgan Freeman. He was apparently a participant in Will’s more violent past. After some light cajoling, Will convinces him to come along on this cowboy-hunting expedition. They eventually catch up to the Scofield Kid, and they proceed to Big Whiskey, the town where all the hooker stabbing business took place. I’ll do my best to capture the spirit of Big Whiskey in a Site card.
Except Sheriff Marley no longer silences units, but instead punches them in the face when they enter the battlefield. Sheriff Little Bill is an absolutely miserable asshole. There is a whole side-plot involving him beating the crap out of an English mercenary who comes to town in search of the bounty. This takes up a good deal of time in the movie, but doesn’t meaningfully advance the plot, so I am going to skip over it. Anyway, when our “heroes” come to town it is quite late, and it is raining like crazy, so they immediately head to the bar. Ned and the Scofield Kid go to the back-room for “an advance” from the prostitutes, while Will sits in the bar alone being miserable. Little Bill and his crew come in at this point to enforce the “no firearms” ordinance, and start hassling Will about his gun. Will is sick, but since Little Bill is an SOB, he decides to make an example of Will, beating him within an inch of his life. Ned and the Kid hear this, and escape out a window in the back. Will somehow manages to crawl out the front door and get on his horse, which Ned and the Kid lead away from the town.
A couple of days pass as Will gets better. It might seem like our heroes would take this as a good time to cut their loses, since it will be hard to claim the bounty without being killed by Little Bill, but the decide to press on, because they are bad at life. They find the first cowboy in the wilderness somewhere, doing some cowboy things with some buddies. After this, Ned realizes that killing people for money is bad, so he heads back home, leaving Will and the Kid to finish the job. At this point there is some security assigned to this second cowboy, as you might imagine. They end up hiding him away in a log cabin in the woods. Our “heroes” obviously find it, and they develop an interesting strategy to take this guy out: outhouse stake-out! Once the guy leaves to take a dump they ambush him. Not exactly the most elegant way to take a life, but it seemed pretty effective. Reminds me of Lethrai Lobotomy.
Is it effective? Yes. Is it efficient? …kinda. Is it pretty? Lord no.
At this point Will heads back to Big Whiskey with the Kid. They meet one of the prostitutes outside of town with the money, who informs them that Ned was captured on his way home. He was brought back to Big Whiskey, and was then tortured and killed. At this point, Will does what every reasonable person would do: starts pounding back booze, and prepares to go on a murderous rampage.
Will goes back into Big Whiskey that night, and catches Little Bill’s entire crew at the bar. A firefight ensues, and as a huge shock to the audience, the hero manages to kill all the bad guys! Wowee! The ending is kinda abrupt, but it seems that Will’s children were somehow totally fine after being left by themselves for about a month, and he eventually goes off to San Francisco or something? Not really sure what happened to the Scofield Kid. Or the prostitutes. Or Big Whiskey. I guess as long as the “bad guy” is dead, that’s the end of the story… or something?
I’m not going to lie, this movie was tough. Nothing makes any sense at all. Honestly. I could go through the entire film top-to-bottom and if you asked me to give a logical and convincing account of why anyone did anything I would struggle. You know how new card game players seem to just play their cards at random? Like turn 1 Torch your opponent in the face? That is everyone in this entire movie. Some of the acting is decent, but the plot has more holes then Scarlatch’s technical play. Why did Little Bill let the cowboys off so light? Why does he care so much about these clowns when the bounty hunters come after them? They had already paid their debt at this point, and they were not residents of the town. How did the Scofield Kid track down Will Muney to help him in the assassination? Why did Will go along with it? How does Will go from “Mournful Deathcap” to “Jekk, Lone Gun”? How were his school-age kids still alive after being left alone for the better part of a month? Why is the movie called ‘Unforgiven’? Is it because all the characters are unforgivably stupid?
This reminds me of one of the new cards.
There is no good explanation of why to play this card, like there is no logical explanation of what happens in this movie. Any explanation you have is likely made-up nonsense full of logical contradictions.
And before anyone tells me about all the Oscars it won: I literally don’t care. That is like saying a deck making a top 8 of an ETS one time means the deck is good – sometimes you run hot and get good match-ups. The idea that this won best picture over “A Few Good Men” is whacko. This was also the same year as Aladdin, and I have gotta say I would rather suffer through “I Can Show You the World” again, rather than sit through another round of “Clint Eastwood looking uncomfortable and squinting”.
With all that said, I feel there is an important message. A “moral of the story” if you will. A lesson that transcends time and circumstance. I would say it goes something like this:
“Don’t stab hookers, or you might get shot while you are on the toilet.”
Neon, the COWMANS
Special thanks to LightsOutAce, who gave some advice in writing this. I hereby promote him to the rank of “Assistant Critic Of Western Movies for Authorizing New Sets” or “Ass-COWMANS” for short.