(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW SCORE: 45
4.5 out of 5 🐙
(original title: ‘Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo’)
I didn’t see a Spaghetti Western until 2002. My exposure to classic film was (and is) limited and embarrassing. But I believe in self-improvement, so I grabbed a film history guide and started exposing myself to classic greatness. I really didn’t have my eye on westerns but then I read that Quentin Tarantino, who directed my favorite movie Pulp Fiction, described the last scene in this film as the most perfect last scene in film history, I had to check it out. For the record, he also voted for it as one of the top ten movies of all time.
Sergio Leone mastered the spaghetti western. Spaghetti westerns were not invented by Leone but starting with A Fistful of Dollars, a remake of Kurasawa’s Yojimbo, Leone brought them to unprecedented levels of success. Leone couldn’t afford Charles Bronson, so he had to settle for this dude named Clint Eastwood. Tough break, huh? All that did was make Eastwood a star. He cemented his icon status in a Few Dollars More. And unlike most trilogies that dwindle with each installment, this final chapter is considered by most experts to be the PERFECT western. This movie had better be good, right?
Clint Eastwood is the “Good” in this film. He encounters the “Ugly”, a Mexican bandit named Tuco (Eli Wallach) early on, and they try to kill each other. Fate and luck force them to team up together and pursue a vast treasure. Fast on both of their trails is the “Bad”, Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef), a wicked villain. He’s a heel and his name is Angel Eyes. He has to be tough.
The movie begins with a sharp reversal. And from then on, it just keeps on messing with expectations. The Good is out muscled and out tracked by the Ugly. The Bad doesn’t bother torturing the Good because there’s no guarantee he’ll talk. The Ugly overpowers a brute twice his size. The Good’s certain death is avoided several times. The movie is about a big pile of gold and all three men want it. While they have simple nicknames, they are complex characters. Their morality is malleable at best, opportunistic at worst. They are gunslingers with their own code of honor, if you can call it that. The movie is a massive feast; a beautifully shot quest for the gold. The dialogue is sharp and witty. It doesn’t feel dated like some other classics.
The performances are dynamite. Eli Wallach steals the show. His complete lack of morals and shameless dishonesty brings plenty of laughs. Eastwood is his legendary strong, silent type. Nothing fazes him; not even a rope around his neck. Lee Van Cleef is evil, through and through. Any review will tell you that this film is a lesson in cinematography. The gun fights are classics and the sharp, extreme close-ups and point of view changes should remind the MTV filmmakers out there that they are not the pioneers they think they are. Like A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, it is a model western. A flawless American icon is brought to the screen by a man born and raised in Italy. If that doesn’t beguile you, what will?
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)