As we continue to trek through the favored films I wrote about for the special year-end edition of The Reel Thing, I will now note that we also carved out a few minutes in the episode to discuss the worst films of 1992. Currently blessed with the selectivity of a part-time film critic, I’m decidedly ill-equipped to come up with such a list, but we had no shortage of contenders back then, especially with small-town screens serving as our main source of cinema. So, straight from the script, here’s my list of the worst films of 1992:
Look, there’s a Ridley Scott, sharing the top of the bottoms list with the other terrible Christopher Columbus of that year. (The Chris Columbus movie from that year ain’t so hot, either.) Do also note that Sylvester Stallone, weeks away from perhaps winning an acting Oscar (a reasonable choice in this instance, I’ll admit), is also represented. That’s enough of that. As we say in the radio biz, and now on with the countdown…
#3 — UNFORGIVEN
For years now, Clint Eastwood has been balancing his career with commercial crowd pleasers and deeply artistic work. Before releasing his 1988 Charlie Parker biography, BIRD, Eastwood cranked out another Dirty Harry movie. His truly terrific 1990 meditation of a misguided moviemaker, WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART, was quickly followed by the truly awful buddy-cop movie THE ROOKIE. But in 1992, Eastwood found a way to combine these two disparate brands of filmmaking. He returned to his familiar place in the genre of westerns, only to craft a film that represents his finest work yet and deconstructs the myth that he’s spending his entire career developing. Dusting off an old, stunning script by David Webb Peoples, Eastwood directs and stars in the film UNFORGIVEN, a deep examination of the effects of violence that leaves all preconceptions about Eastwood in dust. He plays a pig farmer who has a past as a fierce killer and is drawn back into gunfighting to collect a bounty on a man who cut up the face of a prostitute. Eastwood gives a terrific performance as a man haunted by the memory of every person he killed. The supporting cast is equally good, with Morgan Freeman as a companion of Eastwood’s and Richard Harris as an Englishman who shows up to try to collect the bounty, only to have a nasty run-in with the town’s sheriff. And it is the man filling that role who gives the film’s most memorable performance. Gene Hackman gives yet another flawless performance as the nasty lawman who has his own devastating sense of justice. Though the character is essentially a villain, Hackman plays it cool, never lapsing into hysterics or overwrought raving. It is a masterful performance of restrained cruelty. UNFORGIVEN is the film that demonstrates that Clint Eastwood is more than an old action hero. It is nothing short of definitive proof that he is one of Hollywood’s most skilled filmmakers. It is also probably a film that will stand as an enduring classic.