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For a Few Dollars More
1965 - R (re-rating) - 130 Mins.
Director: Sergio Leone
Producer: Arturo González & Alberto Grimaldi
Written By: Sergio Leone
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volont
Review by: John Ulmer
   
"For a Few Dollars More," the middle installment of the iconic Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood "Dollars" trilogy, is the most brutal of the three. Throughout the movie, ruthless bounty hunters often perform cold-blooded murders. The bounty hunters use the "wild west" as a free range: they track, they kill, and they collect.

One of these bounty hunters happens to be The Man with No Name (Eastwood), who returns to us now after his introduction in "A Fistful of Dollars," which was the first movie of the trilogy. (Interestingly, the "man with no name" actually does have a name in each installment -- here, his name is Manco.)

The Man with No Name/Manco is on a mission to find the criminal Indio (Gian Maria Volonté), whose capture is worth a large sum of money. We learn early on that local law enforcement is weak. Sheriffs are cowards. Only the vicious bounty hunters know how to drag in the criminals: dead or alive. Along for the journey is a fellow bounty hunter named Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef), whose own reasons for seeking the man differ from Manco's. At first, the two killers go their own separate ways, and then decide to team up together to improve their chances of finding Indio.

Not only are the two men's intentions different, but so are their methods. Mortimer is a ruthless, self-confident, cold-blooded murderer. Manco, the hero, is less of a murderer and more of a law enforcer. Leone quickly sets this up through a sequence of shots: Mortimer's introduction, for example, begins with his search for a criminal, which finally comes to a finish as Mortimer confronts the man (who is hiding in a brothel). His foe manages to escape through a window, leaping onto a horse and galloping away through town. The images that follow reveal an insight into Mortimer's own self-confidence and startlingly calm nature.

Manco's appearance is even more dramatic. He tracks down his own victim, and corners him in a saloon, only to see three cowboys appear out of nowhere, blocking off all exits. In one quick motion he swings around and fires three successive shots, each bullet finding its target.

Here it is established that Manco is an underdog; therefore, our story's hero. He isn't as ruthless as Mortimer (who mercilessly picks his prey off from a distance) and his actions are somewhat admirable. The cowboys who tried to kill him were the bad guys. Manco was the good guy.

Its lesser admirers often describe the film as being "too long". It's true that the film contains some unnecessary scenes, and these are often dragged out for dramatic effect -- but that is the point. The movie, directed by one of cinema's most ambitious and visionary directors (Sergio Leone, 1929 - 1989), is all about long passages of close-ups and wide-lense shots. Along with its predecessor and particularly its sequel, the "Dollars" trilogy revolutionized the derogatory "spaghetti western" description.

Leone's direction is magnificent and would later inspire Quentin Tarantino (whose "Kill Bill" movies owe something to the "Dollars" trilogy). Long, wide lenses and extreme close-ups only accentuate the fear of the men. There is a particular sequence of shots that clips back and forth between Mortimer and a wanted notice pinned to the exterior of a building. Leone slowly builds up the back-and-forth shots until they burst into a pattern of super-speed images, distinctly closed with the sound of gunshots. It's this sort of blazing, distinct style that makes the film so infectious and enjoyable.

The acting cannot be criticized, although the English dubbing is sometimes laughable. Eastwood is one of the only actors whose voice is not dubbed -- but he rarely speaks. His face does all the talking. Lee Van Cleef (who was re-cast by Leone as a separate character in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly") manages to turn Mortimer into one of the quintessential bad guys of cinema. Although the dubbing can occasionally detract from the flow of scenes and dialogue, the two lead performances by Eastwood and Van Cleef more than compensate for this slight flaw.

Hollywood was cautious about releasing "Dollars." Eastwood, known for his role in the television series "Rawhide," was the only marketable star. The director was an unknown Italian with no commercial successes. As its predecessor before it, "For a Few Dollars More" was delayed release in the States, where it was deemed "unworthy."

However, the movie was a huge success in Italy, in particular; Clint Eastwood quickly gained a cult fan base overseas, but it was not until May 1967 -- after the U.S. release of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" -- that "For a Few Dollars More" and its predecessor would open to critical accolade and deserved celebration in the United States. Now, almost forty years later, it's still a fascinating piece of classic cinema.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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