Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1992: Gene Hackman in Unforgiven

Gene Hackman won his second Oscar from his fifth nomination for portraying Little Bill Daggett in Unforgiven.

Gene Hackman plays the Sheriff of Big Whiskey. He is a man of a violent past, and in a way is the other side of the coin of Clint Eastwood's William Munny. Munny seeing himself for the evil man he was understands what he has done as wrong. Hackman's Bill Daggett though instead never has taken that what he has done is bad, instead decides that he is in fact superior to others creating some odd morality he finds in himself. Hackman realizes Little Bill perfectly as a rather unique villain. Little Bill always believes he is doing the right thing, no matter how evil of an act he might be doing. It is the complexity of Little Bill that Hackman is able to show so well. He is never for a moment a one dimensional villain but rather a very complex man who happens to do some very bad things, very bad things that he believes are the right thing.

Hackman manages to excel in every aspect of his character, and from the beginning he shows that Little Bill is not a standard villain. In his first scene Hackman plays Little Bill as caring more for not causing violence, and perceiving his judgment of the two cowboys who cut up a prostitute as the right thing to do. At this moment he does not show a ruthless man he is, but rather just a sheriff trying to do the right thing. The fact that Hackman does not play him like a villain works perfectly in creating the complexity of Little Bill.

The best scenes though that I think show that he is not really completely evil  are his scenes where he is building his house. Although he is not particularly good at it, Hackman really shows some honest pride in what he does, that shows a genuine joy he has in this accomplishment. In these moments Hackman shows no psychopath, killer, or bully, but just a normal man. I particularly like when he hears someone say something negative about his work, Hackman does not play it like a villain hearing an insult, but instead reacts more effectively by showing it really hurting him, becuase building the house is something he truly cares about.

These scenes of house building work as an excellent contrast though to his far more brutal scenes. Hackman is appropriately cruel in these moments. There is an incredible intensity Hackman brings to his performance. He makes Little Bill always in command of his situation. He is completely in charge in almost every one of his scenes. He makes Little Bill absolutely the man in charge of all of Big Whiskey which is entirely realized by Hackman's overwhelming presence in each of these scenes.

Hackman is especially chilling though in certain scenes where he shows the cold blooded killer that is inside of Little Bill. This is especially well shown by Hackman in his scene with the novel writer and the gunfighter English Bob (Richard Harris) held in prison by Little Bill. In this scene Hackman for some of it shows Little Bill's history of the dangerous men. Hackman has the right ease here really showing Little Bill great knowledge of what it takes to be a gunfighter. With his relaxed manner of approach the subject Hackman makes it all the more effective when he shows the cold chilling nature in Little Bill when he starts playing around with a gun.

His most chilling moment though comes in his scene where he is torturing information about the assassins from one of the bounty hunters going to kill the cowboys. Hackman is incredible in how brutally, but quietly tells how he is going to hurt the man until he gets what he wants. Hackman does not overact it instead he brings the cruelty of Little Bill fully to life. What I do think is amazing though is how he is able to bring all the aspects of Little Bill completely into the one character. The more chilling, as well as the more humane characteristics all into a single man, it is this is what makes his performance truly great. 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome review Louis, truely a masterul work from this great actor

Anonymous said...

Terrific review, one of his best scenes is in the end of the movie where he says "I was building a house", in that moment you feel a little sympathy for him, which adds to this complex characterisation

dshultz said...

Stupendous performance, he deserved it without a doubt, I hope he gets into the top 10. I agree with you anonymous, "I was building a house, I don't to deserve to die like this." or something to that effect, was truly heartbreaking, in that one moment, our sympathies switched, Munny became the villain, and Dagget was the victim. Powerful stuff.

Anonymous said...

^ Perfectly said dshultz

dinasztie said...

I saw him too long ago.

logofanchad3 said...

Gene Hackman for the motherfucking win. One of the best supporting performances I've ever seen.

William McDonald said...

Hackman is certainly marvellous as Bill Daggett, showing wonderful restraint in his pivotal scenes with Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris.
This performance, along with his superb work as Harry Caul in The Conversation, are a testament to Hackman's great gifts as an
actor.