Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Movie Review #14: For a Few Dollars More

Whew! It feels like it's been forever since I've done a movie review. Let's get right back into it with the second movie in Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy: For a Few Dollars More.

Short review: it's at times slow-paced, but generally more fast-paced than A Fistful of Dollars was. The characters are also generally more developed, giving the action sequences more meaning. Still, it's a long movie that's a bit slow at times, so I kinda drifted off a few times.

Clint Eastwood plays a bounty hunter on the trail of an escaped convict, a highly-skilled bandit and bank robber whose loyal crew busted him out of prison. It's a tough job, but the huge bounty on the heads of him and his men would be enough for the bounty hunter to retire afterward.

Complicating this matter is another bounty hunter, older, wiser, and a better shot than Eastwood's character, who's going after the same bandit.


For a Few Dollars More seems to be a movie about trust: misplaced trust, broken trust, and, ultimately, true trust.

When Mango (Eastwood's character) and Mortimer first realize that they're both chasing the same bounty, they're naturally standoffish and distrustful of each other: the reward is huge, and the other guy is potentially edging in on his paycheck.

Or, at least, that's how Mango sees it. Mortimer is the one who insists on a partnership and begins playing Mango from the beginning: he doesn't care about the reward, since his beef with Indio is personal. However, he knows that Mango would distrust him even more if Mortimer said he'd be working for free, so he offers to split the bounty 50/50. From then on, Mortimer seems to know Mango's every move, trusting him to be distrustful of Mortimer.

Indio is a much bigger ball of distrust, though. His trust was broken by the apparent disloyalty of his lover long ago, the one he dreams of and whose pocket watch he carries. So, he plays everyone against everyone else. The man who told him about the camouflaged safe in El Paso trusted Indio with that knowledge, and Indio killed him. His loyal followers, the ones that got him out of prison, were sent on a wild goose chase out of convenience. He even killed a few and pinned the blame on the bounty hunters just to get them riled up.

He's suspicious of everyone, and that keeps him one step ahead of everyone until the end, when Mango and Mortimer's rocky partnership finally pays off and gives them the upper hand.

This theme of broken trust makes sense if you know that For a Few Dollars More was made after Sergio Leone had a nasty break-up with the producers of A Fistful of Dollars, who wouldn't pay him what they owed him for Fistful unless he made a sequel.

Anyway, the movie was a bit confusing if you've seen Fistful since many of the same actors appear playing different characters with often similar personalities. Still, taken on its own, the story makes enough sense: Indio, motivated by grief and bitterness, seeks riches and challenge. Mortimer, motivated by revenge, seeks the killer of his sister (or, technically, the man who made his sister kill herself). Mango is motivated by money and youthful recklessness. And so they clash in old New Mexico.

Most compelling is the wonderful soundtrack, which has no doubt inspired anything intended to sound "western" ever since. The twanging guitar, the shouts, and the whistling are all there, as well as music that takes its cues from the music-box-like chimes that come from Indio's pocket watch.

That said, it was sometimes tough to keep watching due to the pacing. I had the option of either breaking the movie into multiple viewings or working on something else while also watching the movie, diving my attention in one way or another either way. I chose the latter, and though I fear I may have missed some key action scenes, I feel like I got a good grasp of the story, the characters, and the theme without having my eyes on the screen the entire time.


If you want to experience what good westerns can be, For a Few Dollars More will show you that and more. It was ahead of its time, which is saying something for such a latter-day western.

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