It’s almost March, so I guess I better get to my second western of the year . . .
Honestly, I enjoyed the movie, but I don’t know that I have a whole hell of a lot to say about it.
A stranger blows into San Miguel — a desolate Mexican town controlled by two rival families — and plays those families against each other.
1. It’s nice to watch Clint Eastwood before he was a crazy old man arguing with empty chairs.
He’s a lot of fun here as the Man With No Name. I like that he’s more morally ambiguous than some straight-up cowboys, and surprisingly, he’s funny too — not dropping one-liners every five seconds, mind, but he gets a fair few number of quips that definitely made me smile.
And I know this isn’t at all fair — I haven’t seen most of the movies that John Wayne’s particularly acclaimed for — but when I compare the two Wayne movies I have seen (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Shootist) with the two Eastwood movies I’ve seen (A Fistful of Dollars, Unforgiven) . . . well, Eastwood’s definitely shaping up to be my favorite gunslinger of the two.
2. This was kind of the movie that made spaghetti westerns a big deal, and as a subgenre, I think I’m a fan — although I will say that the dubbing does take some getting used to. Italy! First Suspiria, and now this! I like your movies, but you’re driving me crazy!
3. Still, I’m pretty sure I could get into watching more films like this one– I mean, it’s an enjoyable movie — but you know what (or I should say who) ISN’T enjoyable? Esteban.
Okay, so I couldn’t get a good picture of Esteban, but that’s okay because every time this guy laughed — and he laughed a LOT — I was reminded of the hyenas from The Lion King, and it was not actually a pleasant reminder. I wanted to punch Esteban in the face SO MUCH. For the remake — because there will be one, some day — I think I want Esteban to be just slightly less annoying. I don’t care if he’s a villain. There’s absolutely no need for The Lion King flashbacks.
4. You know, it’s funny to watch a movie — say, oh, I don’t know, Django Unchained — and then watch an earlier movie that clearly influenced it. Of course, I know enough about film history to have an idea of what movies and genres Tarantino is referencing in any given project, but it’s somewhat different when you’re actually watching it yourself — it’s like being friends with a kid, then meeting the kid’s mother and saying, “Hey, you’ve got Shelby’s eyes — oh — wait.”
Actually, it’s not Django Unchained I thought of while watching this, so much as Kill Bill, and if you’ve seen both movies, you probably know why. (The video below has spoilers for Kill Bill Vol 2., if you’re the only person in the entire universe who hasn’t seen it yet and actually wants to.)
Quentin Tarantino used Ennio Morricone’s music all over the second Kill Bill movie — including the scene above, which showcases the main theme from A Fistful of Dollars. (The music starts at about 2:07, if you want to skip ahead.) It’s great stuff. I’m enjoying listening to a Morricone playlist on youtube as we speak, actually, and if I was a filmmaker, I’d steal the shit out of it too.
5. Finally, if you’re going up against a whole bunch of bad guys by yourself, and a dude hands you dynamite because you’re low on weapons . . . use it on the bad guys, or just don’t use it. Don’t be the asshole who uses dynamite just to make a flashy entrance.
The Man With No Name? Totally that asshole.
More importantly, The Man With No Name? HAS A NAME.
This is just unacceptable.
So, the Man is doing a fine job of making the rival families — who were considering brokering a truce — even more pissed off at each other, but then he has to help this woman and her husband and their kid, and it’s this bit of do-goodery that is his (temporary) downfall. Ramon — who’s clearly the leader of the Rojos, no matter what his brothers might think — has the Man tortured for a while. Of course, the Man escapes. The Rojos search for him and, while they’re at it, massacre the shit out of the Baxters (the other gang), setting their home on fire and killing every single one of them as they run out of the burning house.
I’m trying to decide if I would have liked the movie a little better if the Baxters had been a touch more powerful. They tell you up front that the Rojos have the edge, but I feel like you’d get a little more of that rock in a hard place feeling for Clint Eastwood if the Baxters had felt like a real threat, instead of just being obvious lambs to the slaughter. It’s not a big issue, though, just something I might have done a little differently.
Anyway, so the Man heals up and rides back into town to showdown with the Rojos brothers and save his friend, Silvanito. He tells Ramon, who’s supposed to be the shit when it comes to shooting, to aim for his heart — throwing Ramon’s words back at him — but when Ramon shoots him repeatedly, the Man keeps getting back up.
Now a smart man would think, hey, let’s try maybe aiming somewhere else — like the head — but Ramon doesn’t understand why he can’t make the shot, so he keeps trying over and over until he runs out of bullets. (I’m well aware that a headshot is harder than a chest shot, but like I said, Ramon’s supposed to be freaking amazing with his rifle. He could have made the headshot, and the Man would have been dead, and Ramon could have just kept murdering people and stealing other men’s wives. Everybody wins!)
The Man then reveals that he’s wearing a steel chest plate underneath his poncho —
— which, hey, a lot more likely to save you than a Bible, I suppose — and then kills everyone but Ramon so that they can have a who’s fastest standoff. Quite naturally, the Man wins that. And after Silvanito kills Esteban (YES! FINALLY!), the Man rides out of town with about as much fanfare as he entered it. Before he goes, though, the undertaker calls him, “Joe.”
And — Joe? Joe? What’s the Joe bullshit? HE IS THE MAN WITH NO NAME. You can’t have a Man With No Name trilogy when THE MAN HAS A NAME.
I am greatly saddened by this.
Enjoyable. Maybe it’s just been too long since I watched it — I did delay my review a bit to work on other things — or maybe I just have no real deep thoughts about this one. But it’s a fun movie, and I’m definitely looking forward to watching The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly later this year.
Aim for the head. It’s not just for zombies.