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The problem of violence

By Mark Cousins   December 2003

With Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill both near the top of box office charts around the world, the nature of screen violence is once again the central intellectual question in western cinema.

In Eastwood’s early spaghetti westerns and mid-period Dirty Harry films, we saw brutal killings but neither their psychological causes nor social effects. By the early 1990s, with Unforgiven, the actor-director had undergone a change of heart. In a key scene, a gunman is shown to be worried about having killed an innocent man. Eastwood’s recent Mystic River continues this recantation, the slowest apology in…

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