Willow Maclay’s review published on Letterboxd:
"In Eastwood's filmography knowing how to use a gun and the consequences of that knowledge are addressed in the hands of fathers and their sons, whether they be surrogate or natural born. The most famous example of this is in Unforgiven (1992) where William Munny (Clint Eastwood) consoles “the Schofield Kid” (Jaimz Woolvett) after he kills a man for the first time. The Kid is struggling to grasp what he has just done. He's in disbelief, chugging whiskey and holding back tears before Munny utters a few words on killing that resonate beyond Unforgiven and are applicable to many of Eastwood's films. “It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he's got...and all he's ever gonna have”. The kid feels his words and lowers his head before saying “Well, I guess they had it coming” to which Munny replies “We all have it coming kid”. This exchange in Unforgiven weighs the importance of killing a person and the responsibility that comes with carrying a weapon. It's implied here that Eastwood is asserting through his cinema that if you kill someone don't expect to go unpunished or unobserved, that someone or something will come back to get you. If one is to look in contrast at one of his recent films American Sniper these ideas are brought to their most sickening through acts of war. There is one scene in that movie that paints the titular Chris Kyle (Bradly Cooper) as someone who has been taught to kill through his father and how that conditioned him to kill other human beings. At the beginning of that film Chris is seen staring down a long rifle waiting worriedly to see if a mother and child are going to engage in warfare. Chris doesn't want to kill these people, but in doing his job he pulls the trigger when it is seen that they have an explosive, but what makes this scene important is the cut that happens directly afterward. When Chris pulls the trigger a child doesn't fall dead, but instead a deer. His father congratulates him and the audience is sent back in time to Chris' youth. The cut signifies something devastatingly tragic; that this behaviour is solicialized in white American boys, and Chris has always been killing. His father taught him that this is what men do. Additionally, in cinematic terms that cut implies the conditioning that comes with brainwashing troops into killing anyone that they see as a threat, and in the cultural history of America that means foreigners, and more often than not people of colour. This cut is in direct opposition of what Munny was talking about in Unforgiven and instead of weighing life Chris's father congratulates him for murdering an animal and sets in motion the actions of Chris Kyle. These two opposing “lessons” taught by fathers and father-figures in these two films paint a clear picture of what neglect and support look like through Conservative American ideas of masculinity as that pertains to weapons.
Butch Haynes is a little bit different than both of these men, but similarly justifies killing people if they threaten ones he loves. Chris Kyle can accept killing under the guise of protecting his country, William Munny kills when someone murders one of his close friends, and Butch Haynes kills when his loved ones are in danger (in this case his mother and Philip). In the films of Clint Eastwood, the second amendment is commandment, and gun violence is simply within the lifeblood of the image. It’s law, judge, jury and executioner for wild west that still realistically exists and offers virtue for white men with a reason. Eastwood, generally, takes an ambivalent stance in service of the narrative itself, and this same ambivalence, treating it as something that just is, rather than something to rally behind or condemn gives his films about men and gun violence a clearheadedness and honesty on what actually fuels the United States of America."
read the full piece here