A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
I like big fat men like you. When they fall they make more noise.
Sergio Leones seminal spaghetti western is a triumph on every scale possible. Both artistically innovative and technically compelling, this sprawling exercise in black and white/gun-smoke justice, set the bar for stylistic merit and “auteur-ists” everywhere. Shot with a precise balance of extreme close-up and sprawling landscapes cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli allows the barren west to feel both confined and endless. From its memorable electric guitar soundtrack by master composer Ennio Marricone (apparently made to embody the howl of snarling hyena’s) to its erratic shot composition, everything about this picture bleeds kitsch.
Whether it be Clint's trademark stone face gaze, Eli Wallach’s snarling wino menacing or Lee Van Cleef's ability to look like a bad mamma-jamma (and in that hat?) -it all spells perfection in my book.
It’s also a work that is beautifully aware of just how damn cool it is.
Leone’ sense of motion, anticipation and groundbreaking direction propels this miles in front of those “other” dusty gunslinger tales, right into the psyche of modern pop culture. Considered by genre purists and film buffs alike to be one of the greatest films ever (Go ahead ask QT yourself) this is truly an effort of bravado and insanely well choreographed violence, offering a range of pacing styles and tricks to keep the viewer appeased for 2 + hours.
Set during the kill or be killed era of American outlaws, the story follows three men trying to recover a cache of gold stowed away inside a dummy grave. Along the way the three desperate men double and triple cross each other just long enough to quip and fire of enough rounds to make Patton happy, before stumbling into the (now infamous) Mexican standoff.
Eastwood is in stellar form as the laughably named Blondie a wandering “nameless” bounty hunter, funding himself by rescuing his partner (Wallach) from hanging (at the last minute) and collecting the wanted money in return.
Eventually tiring of this relationship, Clint abandons Tuco in the desert, and heads off for the gold alone.
Meanwhile Van Cleef plays it black hearted smiles as Angel Eyes (he ain’t no cherub) ruthlessly killing anyone in his way to the grave of the cache- (the plot of Bill Carson)
The sheer delight that one has while viewing such a groundbreaking work is rapidly becoming harder and harder to experience. With all the CGI and paper thin scripts being manufactured out of Hollywood and its studio conglomerate or as I like to say (Un-Holywood), originality and personal vision is becoming gradually (and acceptably) dissolved into an acidic and generic brand of emotionless sludge. People know what to expect…there are no more surprises.
That is until we look back and take notice to the powerful and highly evolved films of past geniuses.
Take Leone for instance, he embroils the audience for 2 plus hours, while staging standoff’s, hangings, murders, and a civil war. This is the work of a master filmmaker whose body of films only gets better with age and one who’s painfully underrated. Take in consideration the casting and shooting locations- the term spaghetti western isn’t used as a pun, rather the choice of shooting under budget using Italian actors and extras. Only a handful of actors spoke English , and that doesn’t include Leone (Direction for Clint- whats Italian for look kick-ass?) In conclusion (complete with my own bias) this film is a testament to every action film that followed it, and every gunfight/sneer/growl and deadpan glance choreographed after its inception into pop culture.
It is a film for those who get it…and those who become bored, confused or just plain sour- sadly missed the boat.