For a Few Dollars More (1965)
Director: Sergio Leone
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volontè
Plot: Two bounty hunters with completely different intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw.
Rating: PG for some violence.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
The weakest of the 'Dollars' trilogy, and by a mile if I may add, Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More is a substandard western which tries to replicate the breakout success of A Fistful of Dollars (1964).
While the latter announced Leone to the world as an audacious cinematic talent capable of turning the traditional American western into a multi-sensory, ritualistic exploration of the taciturn hero as played by Clint 'the man with no name' Eastwood, it is only after the third film of the trilogy – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) – that the great director is assured of the status of legend.
For a Few Dollars More becomes the weak link between an admirable ‘prequel’ and a great ‘sequel’. Notice the quotation marks because the trilogy is not actually a continuous tale but rather a series of unrelated films starring Eastwood in character throughout the three films.
In this film, the plot is simple: Eastwood plays Manco, a quick-witted bounty hunter in search of Indio (Gian Maria Volonte), the leader of a gang of ruthless bandits. He faces Colonel Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) who, coincidentally, is also hunting for Indio.
Anyone who captures Indio and his gang will receive a bountiful sum of money. The race is on between Manco and Mortimer who must decide whether to work together or face possible death at the hands of the brutal killers.
The plot lacks weight and is an excuse for Leone to craft another spaghetti western for the sake of (pardon the pun) a few dollars more. Running at more than two hours, the film is long-winded, slow, and offers not so much an impressive climatic payoff but a saw-it-coming, predictable end to a forgettable film.
Yes, it may be shot on a shoestring budget, but there seems nothing interesting of note that happens in the film except for the typical one-to-one shootouts, and extreme close-up shots of the actors that would later become Leone’s signature style.
The story does little to engage us, and the characters feel distant. A short flashback is cut into the film to provide a relational connection between Mortimer and Indio, but it is not as effective as it promises in developing Mortimer as a man of vengeance rather than of justice.
For a Few Dollars More starts out well, but fizzles into a lackluster action picture. The second-half of the film is set in a desolate town in which its inhabitants have gone into hiding upon the arrival of the bandits, Mortimer, and Manco. I would have liked to see Leone add complexity to the situation by involving the villagers some way or another in the action. At least it would have made the film more involving as innocent people are placed in danger, not that I want to be cruel and sadistic.
The one aspect that remains consistent in quality is Ennio Morricone’s haunting score. He extends his musical experimentation from A Fistful of Dollars, creating a primal soundscape that ranks as one of his best in the western genre. Even with Eastwood and Morricone on board again, Leone fails to make a better picture than A Fistful of Dollars, or at least one that is on par with it.
Is this the curse of the sequel? Perhaps. Still, For a Few Dollars More is very much revered by Leone fans. As a Leone devotee myself, I have to be honest and say that this is far from what the great director is capable of.