It is, of course, just bloody typical of the much-vaunted "American ingenuity" that the best films about the American west were made by an Italian shooting mostly in Spain. It just damn well figures.
Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy, only two of which had the word "dollars" in their names, was what brought Clint Eastwood into the international spotlight for his now trademark character of a man who, if not genuinely amoral, had his morals buried under several layers of well-aged dinosaur wine. But if the original A Fistful of Dollars had served as a reminder to the world that a western could be a good film, then For a Few Dollars More was an additional proclamation that a western could also be a really arty movie. Out of Leone's western oeuvre, it stands as arguably the best of the lot. I'd argue for it, at any rate, and if you attempt to dispute me on the subject I shall simply compare you with Hitler, a technique well-established by years of resoundingly successful internet use as the most effective possible method for proving any point whatsoever, even ones the accuser already knows for a fact to be absolutely wrong.
Eastwood reprises his role as the Man With No Name, whose name is Monco, presently engaged as a bounty hunter. He crosses paths with Colonel Douglas Mortimer, played by Lee Van Cleef, a bounty hunter as well, and rival for the head of El Indio, a sadistic outlaw with one hell of a price on his head. When Indio's gang breaks him out of prison, the two bounty hunters track him to a southwestern town with a well-stocked bank vault, and after much macho staring-down, they agree to team up to take out the gang and split the reward. While Monco's interest is soley in the reward, Mortimer has a personal interest in his quarry, and has been searching for years to finally achieve much-deserved vengeance. Probably the most operatic of Leone's westerns, with the possible exception of the classic Once Upon a Time in the West, it's also one of the showiest, with his love of huge wide-angled shots and monstrous closeups more obvious than ever. It's a clear example of a director who, having proven his chops on the previous outing, is settling back and having some fun, all while managing to make the effort feel effortless and abundantly clever.
While containing some graphic and disturbing elements, the film retains a lighter tone than the other two films in the trilogy, with the occasional dash of smirking humor. It's also the most humanistic, featuring the only real "good guy" amongst the three (let's face it, Eastwood's "The Good" from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is really only good by comparison to the rest of the titular trio.) While he just as effectively plays the villain in the subsequent film, Lee Van Cleef gets to be the hero this time around, probably the closest thing to a "White Hat" character (in spite of his black hat) we ever get from Leone. His final face-off with Indio is one of the best western quick-draw scenes ever filmed, not least because of longtime Leone collaborator Ennio Morricone's fantastic scoring. Eastwood's Man With A Name Who Supposedly Has None remains the quintessential tough guy, a rather inscrutable character who, if clearly enough not a villain, begs the definition of "hero." He's also endlessly amusing, at least if you happen to be a guy.
It wouldn't be much of a stretch to characterize this film (and in fact, the entire output of Leone) as a "guy film." It's entirely concerned with men and masculine attitudes and motives, with only the occasional female showing up for the primary reason of becoming a victim. Nowhere does the film's male-mindset come across more clearly than when Monco's young hired snitch describes Eastwood and Van Cleef's pissing contest as "just like the games we know" to his friends. Most of the humor also comes from the sheer preponderance of badassyness from our two protagonists as they display the sort of unflappability we all wish we had. If you're a guy. If you're a chick, then I can only expect you might not get it, as it has no postmodern analysis or self-aware commentary to put forth; just straight-up macho bravado played to the hilt. For a Few Dollars More is a great adventure, and a chance to see a masterful director at his most playful. If you like westerns, or have ever wondered why other people like them, look no further than...Italy.
Damn those smug foreigners and their stupid talent.
-review by Matt Murray