For a Few Dollars More August 24, 2015
The second part of Sergio Leone’s “Dollar” trilogy (beginning with 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars and closing with 1968’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, 1965’s For a Few Dollars More is a wonderfully grimy spaghetti western that improves upon the brazen badassery of its predecessor. Throw Clint Eastwood back into the ring and you have yourself an anti-hero more parched for the sweat of a knife fight than John Wayne; add the beady-eyed Lee Van Cleef into the mix as his right-hand man and you have yourself an anti-hero more famished for the blood of a gun battle than Clint Eastwood. The film is a never-ending sphere of poetic carnage, incessant perspiration, and pseudo-virility — the exquisite restraint of Leone’s direction, along with the near-silent machismo of its leading players, makes For a Few Dollars More an irresistible product of subgenre ecstasy.
Eastwood and Van Cleef co-headline as The Man With No Name and Col. Douglas Mortimer, two rival bounty hunters who decide to join forces in hopes of capturing sadistic bandit El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté). The plot, as simple as I’ve just described it, is stronger than that of A Fistful of Dollars — The Man With No Name is now no longer a cunning criminal but a sorta-kinda good guy wanting to make right in the West and for himself; style is still the most pertinent force in every frame, but this time around there’s a story strong enough to give all the dust-and-tumbleweeds swagger cinematic weight.
The new assurance is so tenacious, in no doubt, because of Leone, who is confident enough to work from his own material rather than someone else’s (A Fistful of Dollars was adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, the screenplay penned by five other co-writers); For a Few Dollars More takes what was great about its predecessor and ups nearly every detail. It’s more bold in its close-ups, moody pauses, and portrayals.
And while Eastwood is still the same indestructible force of machismo he was in the previous film, it’s Van Cleef that steals the show. With his dragon eyes, beak nose, and abiding glare, he’s an anti-hero that looks the part of the villain — Mortimer is a man of few words, yet Van Cleef is able to speak volumes through body language alone. He and Eastwood have the kind of chemistry only assassins can mirror, pairing not out of friendship but out of necessity. Maybe they don’t like each other, but they sure do know how to work well together.
For a Few Dollars More is probably the weakest of the trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars felt so new, so vital, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly a blending of the strongest elements of the spaghetti western), but it’s the weakest of one of the most perfectly made trilogies of all time. Leone is never one to take it easy, and neither is Eastwood. B+