A Fistful of Dollars Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative.

It’s time to look at an old Wild West film. I’ve never been a fan of the genre. It’s just not my thing as the scenery isn’t all that engaging and everyone always seems to be pretty unlikable here. Fortunately this one was actually pretty decent all things considered and I may go as far as to say that this is my favorite Wild West film. It’s just more enjoyable than the average one and there is quite a lot of strategy going on here which is always nice.

The film starts off with our nameless hero wandering into a corrupt town. There are two factions here which are always battling for control. They are the Baxters and the Rojos. The Baxters are technically the Sheriff group so you’d think they would be the heroes here but considering that they’re all bullies who like shooting everyone up then I guess that isn’t true. The hero decides to take both families down by pitting them against each other. In the process perhaps he will be able to save a couple who has been separated by the warring factions. (Not that they each joined a squad but that the Roja’s have split them up for their own amusement.

A good chunk of the film is about the main character lying to both sides and getting them into trouble. Naturally there is no reason to feel bad for any of the people that he is tricking because they are all bad hombres from the start. He grabs two dead Mexican cops and plants them in a grave yard which causes both groups to want to reach them in time. I can understand the Rojos wanting to silence them but I don’t really see how this would help the Baxters. They are hopelessly outmatched against the Rojos anyway. Why wouldn’t the Baxters go to the next village to grab some cops if they really needed backup? I feel like that would have helped out a little unless they were worried about being undermanned at the village for any amount of time.

One scene near the end of the film is a pretty big stretch though. The hero frames the Baxters again so the final 4 Rojos decide to go to their base and murder them all. The Baxters are supposed to be decent fighters in their own right…right? Well, they manage to somehow lose a 20+ vs 4 battle which is just shameful. They keep running out of the house without their guns or at the very least without any kind of aiming skills. At most you can see the first few members falling for this but we’re talking dozens here and the scene lasts for a very long time. They just keep running out of the house and getting shot. At least take one or two guys down before you die. Going out like that is just embarrassing. It would be tragic if the Baxters weren’t such bad characters.

Naturally there is no reason to like the Rojos either. The main villain is pretty much your stereotypical gang leader who is only concerned with getting money and messing everyone up. At least he is able to plan better than the Baxters though. Still, the only 3 good characters here are the main character and his two pals. The more minor of the two is the coffin maker. He doesn’t do a whole lot but ends up playing a pivotal role towards the end of the film. Then you’ve got the bar owner who helps the hero out a lot. Naturally this ends up being a pretty painful experience for him which is always the case when you ally yourself with the main character. He stays strong throughout though and is also a pretty good shot with his gun.

Finally there’s the main character although I think I’ve already mentioned that he’s pretty solid. This guy knows how to plan and he’s a very quick shot. He manages to take down multiple opponents quite a few times. Without his gun he can still put up a fight although at that point trying to fight a 1 v 4 is basically impossible. He also gets put through the wringer here as the scene where he is beaten by the group is quite intense and certainly lasts for a long while. The film can get pretty gruesome although that’s to be expected. It’s another Wild West thing. Still, it could have been worse.

Aside from the violence the only other aspect of the film that can hurt it is essentially how the villains are winning for 99% of the film and by the time they are defeated there isn’t much left to save. It always takes a bit of the triumph out of the victory because the villains got away with so much before finally being taken down. That’s just how it is sometimes I suppose, but it’s also fun to see the hero swoop in and save the day before all of the damage has been done.

Overall, A Fistful of Dollars is a Wild West film that manages to tick off the usual boxes without making too many mistakes. The film doesn’t particularly drag on and having a good lead is certainly important. It can be annoying to see the entire town corrupt as it is said early on that basically everyone else has already been murdered. Without the main character around things would have definitely gotten a lot worse. By the time the police actually get ready to show up as the film is ending you know that they were just way too late for it to even matter. I’d recommend checking this film out. You’ll see how to properly do a quick draw.

Overall 6/10

Hang Em High Review

I haven’t seen many Westerns over the years. In fact, this is likely the second true Western that I’ve seen when you don’t count titles that aren’t primarily in the genre. It’s definitely an interesting genre but one that is immensely difficult to succeed in due to the nature of the era. It was a lawless time with a lot of violence and bandits running around. The times were also primitive which runs the risk of animal violence and people messing around with one night stands. This film does get tripped up in those details but at least it’s a fairly fun adventure. I won’t call it a good movie, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

It doesn’t waste any time in setting up the plot as it starts with the Jed getting attacked by a group of guys on horseback who decide to hang him. They do think that he murdered someone and he doesn’t make a great case against it, but naturally taking the law into your hands isn’t the answer. Especially in this case as they decide to beat him before the hanging. Jed is rescued by someone who takes him to get publicly hanged, but then the sheriff clears up the misunderstanding and finds out that the main character was actually a cop. It was a rather painful misunderstanding but I imagine it may have been common back in the day. Jet is given an opportunity to be a marshal so he can legally get revenge on his attackers. The only clause in the contract is that he has to bring them in alive and naturally he has to deal with other crimes as well. Jed agrees to the terms but may have bitten off more than he can chew with this assignment.

While the opening scene gave me some hope as the main character saved a baby cow, the film later went back on this as we see a few dead animals. A dog also meets a similar fate. These scenes contributed nothing to the plot by the way. It was added simply to be there and that’s the problem. Many scenes like this are added with no real purpose or point to add to the story and it’s because the film makers don’t see anything wrong with it. It has cost many films a good score and doesn’t help this one’s case.

The plot of the film is simple enough. Jed has to take down 9 attempted murderers who are on the run. The problem is that the film then realized that it needed to stretch this adventure out to around 2 hours so they added a bunch of filler plots that take away from the mission. The film should have just stayed on task even if it meant being a little shorter. The padding only weakens the film even if the concept isn’t half bad. Becoming a marshal just to get revenge is something I can certainly imagine happening.

Jed is a solid lead who gets the job done. He may have lost the opening fight but he was badly outnumbered and wasn’t even expecting to be attacked since he thought they were fellow fighters on the side of justice. That being said, you shouldn’t really trust anyone in the Wild West. Once he is given the badge Jed has the edge on all of his attackers. He isn’t afraid to be alone with the prisoners as he transports them back to camp and isn’t intimidated by anyone either. He’ll speak his mind in any situation and is also a quick shot.

While the main character was solid for the most part, he does randomly have a scene where he becomes a typical lead who loses sight of his goal and gives in to a one night stand instead of getting back to the mission. Jed has to lose some points for that moment and it’s little scenes like this where the film loses its credibility. I’d say that I enjoyed the main character overall but take away that scene and he would have basically been perfect.

The film is fairly violent so keep that in mind while watching it. The opening scene should tip you off to that as they hang Jed in a rather detailed fashion. Fortunately the wound does eventually dry out. Surprisingly the shooting scenes were typically less violent. It’s a violent film, but not really a dark one. For the most part the film does keep a rather upbeat tone. The writing is also pretty solid as the characters make their cases. We even got a court room scene but of course the whole thing was rather rigged so Jed couldn’t do much to stop it the judge from executing the kids. The kids were crooks, but it was a rather minor offense though they did become accessories. It was another tough part of the wild west since it was tough to afford a space in a jail for someone to be kept for life. Every era has its share of mishaps, but this one definitely had a bunch of them. So at the very least this film isn’t hard to watch. It’s reasonably entertaining and certainly ends up being a film that you would expect of Clint Eastwood. It just brings in the bad with the good.

Overall, This film was fairly decent but just lost sight of its overall plot by the end and should have focused more on catching the 9 offenders. The film even ran out of time by the end with how they quickly rushed the last group of guys together. Throw away some of the subplots and cut down on the time other scenes took and then it would have been better focused. Still, if you like the Wild West genre a lot then this should be a good film for you. It has a tough lead, gunfights, and overall feels like a true western. If the gene isn’t enough to get you excited, then you’re probably better off with a more loose take on the Wild West like Trigun. That film keeps the backdrop while throwing in some Sci-Fi.

Overall 3/10