Sunday, 23 February 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1992: Richard Harris in Unforgiven

Richard Harris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying English Bob in Unforgiven.

One of the aspects of Unforgiven that I love is that it is far more than a revenge story as it delves into the whole idea of what means to be a gunfighter. Where this aspect of the film really starts is the appearance of English Bob played by Richard Harris. Richard Harris is an actor I've always liked, you'd certainly be hard pressed to name an actor more entertaining in an interview than him, and this gets to be a somewhat showboating performance from him at least when we are introduced to English Bob. English Bob is riding a train and espousing his views on the recent shooting of President Garfield. Harris plays the role with all proper diction and refinement making sure he puts the English in English Bob to its fullest extent, and proving himself just as capable as playing a gentleman as he would thug.

Harris has some fun with the role, and is pretty entertaining in portraying Bob as a man who is purposefully tying to pick a fight with others with his pompous demeanor. Harris in his opening scene creates the ego brilliantly of the man as you can see his great joy he takes in proving himself superior to others. Harris does more than that though by suggesting exactly what Bob is which is a killer underneath all his fine clothing. My favorite moment of his in this scene is when one of the men is taking offense to Bob and another warns him of Bob's history as a gunfighter. Harris is steely gaze is perfect as he suggests in just that moment the deadly abilities of Bob, and that yes indeed Bob would not really mind cutting down a few lesser sorts if they wanted to start something even if it is over whether or not America should have a monarch.

English Bob's destination is the town of Old Whiskey where the local prostitutes are offering a bounty against some men who cut one of them. As Bob still continues on in his pompous way into town even having too much delight in pretending to shoot a few bystanders Harris. He continues on in this way though until he finds himself surrounded by deputies and the sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Harris and Hackman are great in this scene as they play just the right casual antagonism that instantly reinforces the fact that Bob and Little Bill go way back, although not as old chums to be sure. Harris is great in the scene though by keeping Bob calm and cool and still rather genial as a good gentleman should be as he gives up his first gun. This end in one of my favorite moments of he film though and that is when Daggett asks for one more gun hidden in Bob's coat.

Harris's reaction to that moment is absolutely flawless and I love because not only is it a terrific ah hell sort of face but also Harris shows all that English gentlemen act just completely drain out of him in a moment. He gets drained more thoroughly out of him when Little Bill beats the living tar out of him and locks him in jail for the night. Inside the prison Hackman of course owns the scene as he just about owns the film with his unquestionably the greatest supporting performance of 1992, yeah don't worry, but that should not diminish what Harris still does in the scene. Of course Harris is limited by that he must be writhing in pain, which Harris does well, but his silent reactions to the true revelation of the west are all very well handled as only with his face Harris suggests Bob being somewhat ashamed about what he has done in the past that really does live up to his present image he likes to present.

One of the best moments of the film, again this is a great film so I can say that a lot, is when Little Bill has Bob's biographer (Saul Rubinek) try pulling the trigger of gun which he balks at, but then decides try for Bob's hand in it. It is one of Hackman's most incredible moment as he goes from an amiable warmth to completely chilling in a moment, but Harris does not slouch either. Harris also brings out the killer side in Bob at the same moment as he approaches the gun, and is very effective though in showing that Bob does know to accept defeat. Bob then is sent on his not so merry way with Harris leaving Bob as taken down many notches from his entrance. This is relatively short performance but he so nicely adds to the film in just the right way. The film is not about English Bob, but Harris realizes him as another part of the complex West that Unforgiven portrays.

16 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

I'd probably give him a 4. I liked him, but I thought he was overshadowed COMPLETELY by Hackman in their scenes together. What are your thoughts on Morgan Freeman?

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: Well I would say Hackman kind of overshadows everyone except Eastwood, but that's kind of Eastwood's thing.

Freeman is also a great part of the film, and its his best collaboration with Eastwood therefore naturally it's the one he did not get an Oscar nomination for. He gives nicely upbeat performance early on which makes the fate of his character have all the impact. It's very poignant work and the scene where he can't kill the guy is especially moving.

Matt Mustin said...

I mean, I don't have ANYTHING bad to say about Harris, I just didn't like him QUITE enough to give him a 4.5, but I agree with everything you said about him. I agree with you on Freeman as well.

Anonymous said...

Harris was masterful. I cant believe critics were rooting for Jaye Davidson to win that year for The Crying Game but his performance was no where near as good as Hackmans

RatedRStar said...

I have a huge soft spot for Davidson and The Crying Game itself.

Anonymous said...

I though Jay was great in the Grying Game and Hackman just good

luke higham said...

Louis: Rating for Morgan Freeman.

luke higham said...

Louis: what are your thoughts on all films in the Disney Renaissance Era.

From Little Mermaid to Tarzan.
Rescuers II - Excluded

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: I think a lot of them were swept up by the twist to the point in which they gave all the credit of the twist to him, even though it really had more to do with the writing, direction, and casting than his performance so to speak.

Luke: I'd give Freeman a 4.5 as well.

Beauty and The Beast (Some great songs and Gaston is a pretty good villain. Plenty of nice moments throughout, I’ll admit I’ve never loved it as much as some but its definitely good.)

Aladdin (The songs go from good to fine. Aladdin as well as several other characters are pretty bland, and I’ve never liked Jafar that much as a villain. Robin Williams is good here though and does energize the film in the right way)

The Lion King (It is a enjoyable one with some catchy songs, and it is easy to see why it was so popular. I do feel it rather sloppily handles the moral of the story. Also although Irons is great as Scar and the film uses him well the first half they frankly let him down with the second half)

Pocahontas (Haven’t watched it since it came out and I’ll I can say is it is pretty forgettable as I really don’t remember anything about it)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Pure brilliance in parts with perhaps the greatest Disney song with Hellfire, and one of the greatest Disney villains with Frollo. I sure wish the gargoyles weren’t there though or they were done in a different way as they really do hurt the film a lot)

Mulan (Has one especially great song in its cannon that is particularly catchy, and I would say its just fine all together. It’s never great but it’s also never bad and usually rather good)

Tarzan (Don’t really care for the songs or any of the characters. It’s not truly bad but I think it does not really distinguish in anyway other than perhaps the demise of the villain)

Haven’t seen Hercules and I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the Little Mermaid.

RatedRStar said...

Speaking of Neil Jordan, Louis, have you seen Interview with the Vampire?

Louis Morgan said...

Parts of, a long time ago.

RatedRStar said...

RIP Harold Ramis =( another iconic performer.

Michael Patison said...

What about the Pixars?

Anonymous said...

The Hackman/Davidson thing in 92 reminds me of Leto/Fassbender this year, with Hackman and Fassbender being the two villains.

I would say:

Hackman > Davidson

Leto > Fassbender

JackiBoyz said...

Wnat did you make to Frozen and its performances Louis? I think that might be my favorite film of 2013.

RIP Harold Ramis, also what did you make of him in Ghostbusters and Stripes Louis?

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: RIP.

Michael:

Honestly I should note I find just about all Pixar films a little overrated, although they tend to be rather beautifully animated.

Toy Story(Not really a great story, but it is definitely an enjoyable enough film)

A Bug's Life(Okay but mostly forgettable film)

Toy Story (Probably their most entertaining and humorous film, although I do feel its attempts at being more dramatic are bit heavy handed, more on that later)

Monsters Inc. (Doesn't really distinguish itself in anyway, but it's fine)

The Incredibles (Entertaining and fun throughout, and a pretty good change of pace for them)

Ratatouille (Aside from Anton Ego, brilliantly voiced by Peter O'Toole, and the look of the film, I actually everything else not particularly memorable)

WALL-E (The opening scenes are great but I find it devolves into some bad slapstick)

UP (Just like Wall-E really)

Toy Story 3(Very entertaining like the first two, but like the second one, and unlike everyone else apparently, I really found it tried to hard in its serious moments)

JackiBoyz: I liked Frozen a lot, and thought all the performances worked well for it.

I've always found Ramis very entertaining in Ghostbusters, and he's in my top five for supporting that year. I also thought he was fine in Stripes, although don't really care too much for the film.