Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More (1965, ***1/2) is, in theory, a sequel to A Fistful of Dollars, which was itself a big hit for the man and the studio. The bad news is that it’s a sequel mostly in name, but the good (great) news is that it’s every bit as deliciously violent and captivating as its predecessor.
Clint Eastwood returns, although he’s no longer The Man with No Name; he’s Monco, a “bounty killer” – not a bounty hunter, because that might imply he intends to bring ’em back alive. Monco has his eyes on a desperado named Indio, played by Italian actor Gian Maria Volontè. Trouble is, another bounty killer, name of Colonel Mortimer (Lee van Cleef) also wants Indio. The fact that the man has a reward of $10,000 on his head probably figures into things a little. Add in the rest of the gang, and you’re looking at maybe $27,000. Which today I assume would be $75 million. I don’t know, you look it up.
Mortimer and Monco do decide to team up; after all, we can’t have too many bad guys. That doesn’t mean that they won’t try to double cross one another. The plan is for Monco to infiltrate Indio’s band and get him to move north, toward the town of El Paso, where they’ll attempt to rob the town’s Fort-Knox-like bank. Oh, Indio goes north all right, with Monco, and the bank is hit, but…well, let’s just say things don’t go as planned for anyone.
For a Few Dollars More is an epic, even though it’s “only” 132 minutes long. I mean it’s an epic in the same way that Lawrence of Arabia is an epic, with majestic, sweeping vistas followed by (in Leone’s case) extreme closeups of the three leads. There are duels in the streets, just as you’d expect a western to have. For all I know, this happened all the time, and in this movie it happens repeatedly. Still, it’s not as if every fight is carefully sanctioned, as there are plenty of ambushes to be found.
This was the middle film in the series that really put the then-somewhat-young Eastwood on the map. Van Cleef’s Mortimer calls him “kid,” and Eastwood’s calls Mortimer “old man”; in reality, the two were only five years apart in age. Eastwood, of course, is still kicking; he turned 86 a couple of months ago. Maybe his days as a taciturn gunslinger are long behind him, but he’s still a creative genius. And he learned a lot of the directorial tricks of the trade from Leone himself, a master of the western genre. This, along with its series counterparts, is definitely not to be missed.