Last week for “Western Wednesday” I reviewed A Fistful of Dollars and up this week is its sequel, For a Few Dollars More. It is very similar in style and tone, and much of what I say about it will also be similar. I can’t really weigh in which one I think is better, as they were so similar. What this one brings to the table is a little bit more length, and instead of two gangs there are two heroes.
Eastwood’s character is now working as a bounty killer, and he is made aware of a similarly employed man, Colonel Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef), as they are chasing the same bounty on a bank robber named El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte). After dancing around each other for a bit, Mortimer suggests they team up, to which Eastwood’s character reluctantly agrees. Eventually it is revealed that Mortimer is interested in killing Indio for more reasons than just the bounty.
In my review of A Fistful of Dollars, I commented on the mystery of Eastwood’s character. Why is he doing what he is doing? Is it out of good or sinister impulses? The same questions apply here in this film, but to a far lesser degree. Here, the bounties are highlighted more and it seems a more plausible explanation. However, the fact still remains that he is going after convicted criminals rather than joining them, so that’s something I guess. The (perhaps assumed) character depth in this film is sort of transferred onto Mortimer, as we don’t know for a long time whether he is friend or foe to Eastwood and why he is going after Indio. It is revealed, and his relationship with Eastwood is all sorted out, and he makes a graceful exit. Everything gets wrapped up on that front, and he doesn’t turn out to be that deep, but the mystery is enough to keep us guessing for a while.
During one scene, I couldn’t help but make a connection between Once Upon a Time in the West, a later Sergio Leone film. That one deals a lot more with how the West is becoming more “civilized,” if not civilized than at least more populated. In this film he touches upon it in one scene, when Eastwood goes to see a man known as the Old Prophet (Joseph Egger) to get information about Mortimer. He goes on and on about how Mortimer used to be a Colonel and all honorable and everything, and is now reduced to being a bounty killer. Also he complains about the railroad and how it tried to force him off his land. The death of the West seems to be explored for the first time in this short scene, to be later developed in his other film (or films?). This scene is also a standout because of the Old Prophet himself; he is at once comical and ominous. The things this guy can do with face are amazing and quite humorous.
The film continues the intensity of the first one. Lots of starring people down, and close ups on dirty and sweaty outlaws. There are a ton of examples of this throughout the film, but one of the most memorable is Indio’s gang kills a man whose testimony sent one of their men to jail. Everyone is sweaty in this movie, but this poor guy is off the charts. You can sense his fear of the gang through his closeups, and the whole scene is incredibly tense because the gang just looks all that more menacing. Also it might just be me, but I’m pretty sure there was more music in this film. Again scored wonderfully by Ennio Morricone, the music accompanies conversations as well dramatic showdowns and rides off into the sunset. It’s used more like a score from an old Hollywood movie; you know somebody just said something important to the plot because the score underlines it.
For a Few Dollars More is just what the name implies, more of the same stuff that went into making A Fistful of Dollars so good. It may go a little bit deeper in parts and a little bit less so in others, but all around I’d say it’s pretty on par with what the first film dishes out. By all accounts this is not the case with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and I’m even more excited to get to that classic next week.
“When two hunters go after the same prey, they usually end up shooting each other in the back. And we don’t want to shoot each other in the back.”
Long story short: 3.5/4 stars
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