A Fistful Of Dynamite (1971)

SERGIO LEONE

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

Original Title: Giù la testa

Alternate Title: Duck, You Sucker!

, 1971. , . Story by Sergio Leone, , Screenplay by , Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone, dialogue adaptation by , . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

Today regarded as a lesser work by Sergio Leone and celebrated as an underrated classic by his most devoted fans, this was his penultimate film before he ended his feature directorial career with Once Upon A Time In America thirteen years later.

It’s set during a Mexican Revolution that has been adapted to Leone’s imagination, complete with expressionist Wild West vistas shot in the wide expanses of rural Spain, in which we’re constantly reminded that the likes of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata are fighting the real fights off screen while our charming, less important but still exciting heroes are taking up our attention.

, hamming it up as only he can, dons pancake makeup and an outrageous accent as Juan Miranda, a bandit who robs a stagecoach of head-in-sand aristocrats at the beginning of the film, before meeting up with an Irish revolutionary () with whom he plots a robbery.

The bank they mean to clean out turns out to be full of political prisoners, not money, and in freeing them these two men accidentally join the revolution and heroically help free the country from its oppressive overseers.

The cost to their personal lives, however, is great, with Coburn haunted by memories of the blood that was shed when he helped free his own country from English rule not long before this film takes place.

There are a few sequences graced with the kind of overt grandeur that one needs from a truly great spaghetti western, but Leone’s indulgence in an unnecessary running time of 150-plus minutes sees him trying to force epic status on a film that should actually be more along the lines of an efficient Anthony Mann film, most obvious in an overly extended and detailed opening sequence that doesn’t lead to anything nearly worthy of it.

Steiger’s plastic interpretation of the character is a lot to deal with for that long, particularly as Coburn brings effortless style and poise that leaves his co-star in the dust, while a great many sequences (especially the opening) feel like they’re being made longer on purpose as if to dictate a weightiness that the film hasn’t earned.

For Leone’s fans this will still by a worthy viewing, but there’s no denying that it lacks the cool charm of Clint’s trilogy and is nowhere near the crackling specificity of the masterful Once Upon A Time In The West.

 

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