While there are only four movies in this final section, each is a remarkable film. They represent a stage in Eastwood’s career during which he focused more on directing, and only acted in passion projects when he chose. After more than 40 years in the movie-making business, who can blame him. The first film is a reinvention of the western genre, the next one of the best of the slick thrillers made in the 1990s, and the last is a ruminating and grouchy meditation on getting older in changing world. They’re all fantastic and shouldn’t be missed.
In 1992, Eastwood released the movie that would be the jewel of his later acting career and his directorial career as well as his last western. Unforgiven was a film considered to provide a rebirth of the western genre that dispelled many of the cliches of previous films set in the time period, replacing them with more realistic and conflicted characters and circumstances.
The film, which Eastwood dedicated to the late Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, won four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman) and Best Film Editing. Eastwood was nominated for Best Actor for his role as William Munny, but lost to Al Pacino for his role in Scent of a Woman.
An interesting bit of trivia: the boots Eastwood wore in this movie are the same ones he wore while acting in the TV series Rawhide in the 1950s and 60s.
Unforgiven is only the third western to ever win the Best Picture award following Cimarron (1931) and Dances With Wolves (1990).
At the beginning of the film, we see Munny practice with a Starr 1858 Army percussion revolver in .44 caliber that has been stored away in his home for many years. He tries to shoot a can from a wooden post, only to find he’s lost his aim since the last time he pulled the trigger.
The Starr was unique in that it was a double-action-only percussion revolver used in the western theater of the American Civil War. The cylinder could also be quickly removed by pulling forward on the cylinder pin. The revolver also included a safety that held the hammer away from the percussion cap under it so the gun could be carried with all its five cylinders loaded, unlike the Colt which required one of its 6 chambers to remain uncapped when carried so the hammer couldn’t accidentally discharge it. Starr also produced a single action version in 1863.
During the target shooting scene, you can see the Starr’s double action correctly portrayed by Eastwood’s long, smooth trigger pull.
When he misses the can with the Starr, Munny proceeds to fetch a 10-gauge shotgun from the house. He does not miss with that.
Later, Sheriff Little Bill Dagget (Hackman) takes Munny’s Starr before beating him nearly to death the night he arrives in Little Whiskey.
When the trio of Munny, The Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) and Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) carry out the murder contract on one of the cowboys who cut Delilah’s face, they use Ned’s Spencer 1860 Saddle Ring Carbine for the long-range shot. It’s revealed that it was Ned’s preferred gun when the two men used to ride together, and that he was a crack shot with it.
After Ned he can’t bring himself to kill the outlaw, he gives the rifle to Munny, who delivers the fatal shot, after missing a few times. “I ain’t never been too good with one of these.”
During the movie’s final shootout, Munny grabs the rifle and uses it again in the bar, at one point reloading the tubular magazine that he removes from the shoulder stock.
During the same shootout, Munny also uses his W. Richards 10 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun with most of the finish worn off. He actually only gets to fire it once, killing Skinny Dubois (Anthony James) for displaying Ned’s dead body outside his bar. He then attempts to shoot Little Bill, but the shotgun misfires, likely from being in the pouring rain.
The surprise of the gun not going off gives him enough time to draw a Smith & Wesson Schofield Model 3 from his holster. He got the break-action revolver from The Kid when he learned of Ned’s death and began drinking the bottle of whiskey. The Kid happily gives it over after claiming he doesn’t want to kill anyone else, ever again. Munny uses it to great effect in the Saloon, using it to kill most of Little Bill’s deputies.
The following year, Eastwood stars as aging Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, who was assigned to protect John F. Kennedy when he was a young agent. Horrigan was actually running alongside the limo in Dallas in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated.
Now, a clever assassin and former CIA hitman, Mitch Leary (John Malkovich) has targeted not only the current president, but Horrigan as well, striving for some poetic bookending of Kennedy’s assassination and his own would-be assassination of the fictional President, who is never named.
Leary plays on Horrigan’s guilt over being the only Secret Service agent to have ever lost a president during a legthy cat and mouse game of phone calls and deliberate clues.
Horrigan, along with the other Secret Service agents in the film, carries a SIG-Sauer P228. At the time the film was made, the P228 was the actual sidearm carried by agents of the agency, before the agency switched to the P229.
While undercover at the beginning of the movie, Horrigan carries a Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver during his meeting with Mendoza (Tobin Bell). It’s possible the revolver was his sidearm in the SS before the agency moved to semi-autos.
In 2002 Eastwood starred in Blood Work playing Terry McCaleb, a retired FBI agent who suffered from a bad heart. Ironically, after investigating homicides and profiling killers his entire career, he receives the heart of a murder victim in a transplant operation.
Later, while living on a houseboat, he is approached by Graciella Rivers, a woman whose sister was killed during a robbery. Things get personal when McCaleb realizes the victim is the woman whose heart is beating in his chest. Defying the advice of his doctors, McCaleb sets out to find the killer with the help of his neighbor and a local police detective.
McCaleb carries a snubby Smith & Wesson Model 627 as his sidearm through the movie. The gun is actually a special version of the robust revolver featuring an unusual barrel profile and an 8-shot cylinder made by the S&W Performance Center. The gun also has a fluted cylinder, not common to the snub-nose version of the 627, and Hogue grips.
When McCaleb spots a suspect observing him from a parked car, he takes a Remington 870 Police pump-action shotgun with newer-style black polymer furniture from a detective’s trunk and fires at the man as he speeds off. The shotgun includes a 6-shell side-saddle carrier on the receiver.
In 2008, Eastwood took his second to last role to date, and his last role that called for him being armed. In Gran Torino, which Eastwood also directed, he plays Walt Kowalski, a recently widowed veteran of the Korean War, who has alienated himself from his family over the years and is now angry at the world, and alone. Walt’s young neighbor, Thao Vang Lor, is pressured by his cousin into stealing Walt’s prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino as an initiation into a gang.
Walt thwarts the robber by discovering the boy while armed with the M1 Garand rifle that he kept from the war. He uses the rifle to chase the boy from his garage and to later scare the Hmong gang members off his property in the now infamous “Get off my lawn” scene.
Kowalski also keeps an M1911 pistol, which it is assumed he also kept from the war, in his truck. He uses it to scare some unsavory characters away from Thao’s sister Sue Lor (Ahney Her) and carries it in his belt without a holster in several scenes.