I can’t argue that, I was just putting out the impression I took away from the movie. I saw Munny as a normally non-evil psychopath who had no qualms about killing someone for money, and that he killed Bill just because he didn’t like him. I may have mis-read that, I don’t analyze movies the way many others are doing. Your distinction between vengeance and justice is a good explanation.
Daggett excuses his behavior by claiming that it is in the interests of the town. He demonstrates that he’s a sadist when tries to get Beauchamp to give English Bob the pistol so that he can have a justification to kill him and when (yet again) he whips Ned to death because of Ned’s threat about Will Munny.
Little Bill demonstrates little concern for others as his anger at the “whores” for attempting to hire killers is misdirected as not being towards the cowboys for starting the problem in the first place. His concern was that killers (and in using his parlance “assassins”) would come to his town and threaten his authority.After all, people willing to kill for money would have no problems murdering a sheriff in the Old West if he interfered with their plans.
The limited number of killers who came to the town for the bounty has always been one of the film’s weakest points, IMHO. If we presume that three men rode up Montana for it and English Bob caught the train there, then the number of killers seeking the bounty should have been far higher than Little Bill Daggett and his deputies would have been able to handle.
Even in the Old West, there was a presumption of innocence. Now that didn’t always translate into people getting jury trials as lynchings were easier even if you weren’t certain that the person was indeed guilty.
Ned was a solitary rider traveling AWAY from the area of the killings. While he was seen in Big Whiskey with the two men presumed to have killed both of the cowboys, there was no proof that he had killed anyone. In fact, had he not told Bill about Will Munny, it might have been presumed that he was indeed an innocent man killed by a sadistic sheriff.
Are you trying to argue who was the better man? Because by old west standards, Little Bill was on the righteous side. Not messing with the big ranchers workers is par for the course. Whipping a black guy to get info is par for the course. Sure, he was a sadistic shit but Will and Ned travelled a long distance to kill someone who didn’t have a government sanctioned bounty on his head. Munny, on the other hand:
Will Munny: That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.
Not sure the lack of assassins coming to town is a weak point. Not sure of the travel time for the bounty to travel out of and bounty hunters to come in to town. Maybe.
It is, but since the discussion seems to be going well, it’s not an unforgivable hi-jack.:eek:
Easier to answer in reverse order:
Unforgiving: Everyone + Karma + The Great Spirit in the Sky (or whatever term you use to identify your concept of a divine entity.]
Unforgiven: Everyone (just about).
[li]Delilah, who got cut up for laughing a the cowboy’s tiny tool, was simply not forgiven (by the cowboy/cutter).[/li][/ul]
[li]I think one of the prostitutes discusses a lost husband or some such during the film. And it’s a common Western theme and historical fact that Ladies of the Brothels were invariably driven to the work out of desperation, having lost husbands or just never having marital offers at all. [There’s a thread about Little House on the Prairie in which people are discussing the harsh conditions of the period and geography and how a woman’s failure to marry often equaled an inability to survive the environ very long.] It made the prostitution industry more forgivable in those days. But despite the fact that one of the customers has committed assault with a deadly weapon (and several related crimes) and ruined a woman’s only available career, Little Bill imposes what seems to be an astonishingly light punishment. We, the audience, understand the conditions and forgive the ladies; Little Bill has no respect for them – perhaps because he doesn’t respect women and definitely because he doesn’t respect whores – and he has unforgiven them.[/li][/ul]
[li]The guys who went a-whoring that night were collectively guilty of crimes (assault by one, perhaps conspiracy or just being stupid for the others). Little Bill decided their punishment would be the loss of some horses, after which they were forgiven so far as The Law was concerned. But the ladies didn’t think that was sufficient punishment and their establishment of a bounty rendered the cowboys unforgiven.[/li][/ul]
[li]When English Bob arrives in town, it’s clear to the audience that Little Bill already knows him. There are later scenes in which Little Bill recalls incidents that he witnessed which also involved English Bob. The fact of the matter is that, before becoming a lawman, Bill and Bob rode together on the other side of the law – again a relatively common theme in Westerns and a quirky fact of Old West history. (Yeah, I read too many of those Time-Life books about The Old West). Both English Bob and Little Bill have given up their lawless ways and gone straight, taking up new professions to utilize their old skills and experience on the right side of the law: Bounty Hunting and Law Enforcement. By switching sides, some would say they are forgiven. But sadistic Little Bill remembers English Bob and their earlier antics and he turns his sadism on his former partner, rendering the Duck of Death unforgiven.[/li][/ul]
[li]Ned and Will used to ride together, too. They and their gang did a lot of bad stuff and saw some wild times. Then after a while Ned settled down with Sally Two-Trees and Will settled down with Claudia Feathers and had two kids. Life (and probably The Lord) had forgiven them but still let them suffer hard times. Little Bill’s sadistic treatment definitely left Ned unforgiven. When Will (and Schofield) is reminded of the many people Little Bill knows Will killed–and then learns his friend Ned was killed by Little Bill–he grabs the bottle from the Kid and starts guzzling in order to intentionally roll back his persona to become the drunken pre-Claudia unforgiven killer that he [Strikethrough=]needs[\strikethrough] wants to be in order to handle the situation.[/li][/ul]
[li]Little Bill settled down and became a lawman, but we see him still being the sadistic psychopath who treats women like shit, treats prostitutes like dirty whores, treats former colleagues like unrepentant criminals, and treats Ned like a lowly delinquent slave. He thinks society has forgiven him because he took up the badge but Little Bill comes around and renders him unforgiven.[/li][/ul]
And that’s the whole point of the contrasting character comparison: Little Bill figured society forgave him when he became the town Sheriff, but he continued to act like a sadistic, self-righteous, disrespectful jerk. Will Muny figured God forgave him when Claudia straightened him out, but he never forgot his crimes or got over the guilt.
It’s better, I think, to have the conscience.
Yup. Munny: “It’s a hell of thing, killin’ a man. You take all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.” Schofield Kid: “Yeah. Well I guess they had it comin’.” Every time I think of those lines it chokes me up a little, for some reason. Maybe 'cause I know it’s true.
That WAS a great line! I watched that movie in the theater when it came out and I still remember thinking at the time “Well, ‘Little Bill’ has you there!” after William Munny shot and killed the saloon owner. Will Munny’s next line was, possibly, the only reasonable retort to what Little Bill had said.
I (the OP) agree. Post #5. I think, 20+ years on, I agree more and more.
Perhaps I’m sensing, in some small way, “Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near”.
(Andrew Marvell - To His Coy Mistress)
"And that’s the whole point of the contrasting character comparison: Little Bill figured society forgave him when he became the town Sheriff, but he continued to act like a sadistic, self-righteous, disrespectful jerk. Will Muny figured God forgave him when Claudia straightened him out, but he never forgot his crimes or got over the guilt.
It’s better, I think, to have the conscience."
Grestarian, thanks for the thoughtful reply. There has been a lot of great conversation here and has given me a lot to think about. Clearly I’m due to watch the movie again.
Me, I’ve always had sympathy for Muny, even when he’s shooting the town up. I know he’ll be feeling it in the morning.
Little Bill was also motivated by the desire to be the big badass. He hates “assassins” and men of low character. But he also brags about how there are so few really dangerous men like English Bob and himself when he’s explaining about the importance of keeping cool under fire. So there’s a large dose of hypocrisy in Little Bill Dagget. Which I think really helped make him more realistic. Yeah, he says and maybe even believes that he’s keeping things safe. But it’s no coincidence that he’s the one in charge and enjoys his reputation of “working them tough towns.”
Yes, Little Bill is far from being the white hat character here. Remember English Bob’s reaction to realising who he was speaking with? The deputy’s stunned reaction to being asked if Little Bill was scared “Little Bill? Scared?”
There are no real good guys in this, not even the saloon whores. It is all vengeance, incompetence, cowardice and brutality. No nobility at all.
“No nobility at all.”
I absolutely see what you’re saying. But let me quote the last lines:
Remember the looks on the townspeople’s faces? Delilah (the one whose face was
cut up) had an expression of something akin to hero-worship. Frances Fisher, Saul
Rubinek - they all seemed to have expressions of awe as they watched him ride away.
It really seemed to me as though they were watching a knight-errant depart
after completing his quest.
And those last lines! When I watch the film all the way through and hear Eastwood
speak them, a shiver runs down my spine. There is no doubt in my or any of the
townsfolk’s minds that he means exactly what he says. Who makes a vow like that?
And who is he speaking to? Not, to me, those who came out to see him leave. Rather,
instead, to those others - hiding in the dark, waiting their chance to do nefarious
deeds, especially with Little Bill and some of the deputies dead.
Looks to me like he sees to his friend having an honorable burial instead of being
displayed like he was. Looks like he sees to the women having and keeping their
honor - such as could be for whores in the Old West.
Looks to me that there is something like a strain of nobility running through his
actions and his speech. Otherwise, why do we (and the townspeople) react the way
we do? For a cold-blooded killer with little or no redeeming qualities?
Looks to me.
It is a fair point and a valid reading, but for me I think the last act shows the last shreds of his attempted decency departing, he reverts to what he is. He is never going back to his kids and he would never come back to Big Whiskey. His words are a Keyser Soze style boast to deepen the myth and spread the terror. The are possibly aimed at J.J. Beauchamp as much as anyone.
I don’t see any admiration in the eyes of the townsfolk, I see terror, from all of them both slain and saved and no matter what other problems and injustices befall them in the future I reckon the one thing they want least of all is for William Munny to ever return to their town.
Wow, this might make a good poll question; because I see it just the opposite. To me, the movie is about how we all have a dark side; and we do what we need to do to survive. Based on the ending screen monologue it never even occurred to me that Will Munny continued his life of evil. I think he got his money; and prospered in dry good in San Francisco. I don’t know how old you are, Novelty Bobble, but I know there are a LOT of behaviors I exhibited as a younger person that I wouldn’t even consider now. I think as you age your sense of right and wrong becomes less black and white, and more shades of grey.
Well, he might have gone to San Francisco. Or he might not. He did not strike me as a man who would have prospered in anything. Will Munny was dull, and he wasn’t much of a farmer. He demonstrates no abilities as at except, as he puts it, bein’ lucky when it comes to killin’ folks.
One interpretation of the movie - and this is one of the things that makes it such a terrific movie - is that it’s something of a double-cross on the audience. The film proceeds as if it intends to deconstruct the Western gunslinger mythos. Munny, we know, is a former criminal and killer but he’s pathetic and old and was “drunk most 'o the time.” And then, suddenly, all that is reversed and Munny is an un stoppable force of nature who kills an entire saloon full of men with a ruthless, godlike efficiency… and his vanishes, “some say to San Francisco.”
You don’t know if he went to San Fran. In fact I’d argue it is unlikely. All we know is he vanished. “He went to California and got rich” is just the kind of legend people would tell of a long-gone, legendary gunfighter.
I’m in my forties and old enough to know that for people as damaged as Munny there is little chance of a permanent change.
For some people? yes. For deep-down cold-blooded killers like Munny, Little Bill and English Bob? no. I don’t think they do change (at least not for long). Munny couldn’t hack it as a farmer and wouldn’t hack it in civilised business.
Also, having Munny ride off after extracting his vengeance and living a peaceful life would paint him as somewhat heroic and that jars with the other theme of the film, that of the western mythology being exactly that.
As a director I think Eastwood is challenging us with the three main protagonists. He is saying “there you go…look at these people, look at what they do, look at how they behave, look at their flaws and contradictions and then consider who is truly your hero because there is really nothing to choose between them, they are all equally terrible human beings” It may be no accident that we have three people in Will, Bill and Bob who don’t neatly fit into the “Good, Bad and Ugly” categories.
By Eastwood taking on the role you could even make a case for Munny being a portrayal of what “the man with no name” truly was before the gloss was applied by Sergio Leone. Not sure I’d go that far but it is an interesting thought.
The fact that the film does cause you to consider these deeper questions is evidence enough to me of its greatness.
I like this thought of it being a double-cross on the audience. Or at least a challenge to them. The film takes great pains to show the killers warts and all and yet at the end it tempts the viewer with their desire for myths and legends.
Perhaps when faced with those end credits we should know enough from the preceding two hours to say…“bullshit! the truth is going to be far grubbier and less palatable”
Geez I hate to say it, but I actually agree with you guys! Do I think a guy like Munny can change? Well, no, not ordinarily; but he DID change for a while; and for at least 10 years based on the age of his kids. The eternal optimist in me wants him to be changed. The guy that stands up to the bullying; but once that’s settled, goes back to his ‘good’ way of life raising his kids, opening a dry goods store, etc.
I really like the theory that the closing monologue was, as RickJay said, nothing but the legend of what happened to the man that was “a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition.” No doubt a night in a small town like that would create stories.
Plus, speaking of legends; you have Beauchamp right there openly writing pulp “biographies” but only wanting to write it as the legendary tales of a superhero. It’s a lot more romantic to say Munny prospered in dry goods to explain why he was never heard from again. The point is that no one really knows. Now what did I do with my copy of Duck of Death?
God, what a great movie. I don’t see this one ever moving off my top 5 list.
Little Bill is a huge hypocrite as is English Bob. They are not good people even now that they are on the side of the law. The film is saying that the type of person outlaw, gunfighter, sheriff, or bounty hunter who would be the hero of a typical western is actually a cold blooded almost psychopathic killer. People like Beauchamp who mythologize them or the Kid who look up to them and want to be like them are deluded, those type of people are monsters.
Then the film invites us to be hypocrites by seeing the horror of the violence and death and then giving us the final scene which is just a great shootout. We so enjoy the cold blooded murder of Skinny, the shooting of the deputies who have done nothing really wrong and the execution of Little Bill. So even though we see Will is actually a horrible person, we still feel him to be a hero.