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.
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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

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Tombstone

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It’s time for another historical film based on true events. This one deals with the good ole Wild West and has some famous shoot outs like the one at O.K. Corral. There’s quite a bit of action in this film since it’s fairly long with a large cast to boot. I’ll be covering another Wild West film that’s even longer with a bigger cast, but this one is a solid step ahead. It definitely has more hype for each of the battles since they’re set up well.

The main part of the plot takes place in Tombstone. A group of outlaws known as Cowboys have been terrorizing the place. They murder and steal all the time without fear of retribution because they outnumber the cops and are pretty quick on the trigger. The situation changes when a retired cop named Wyatt enters town along with his pal Doc Holliday. Now that the sides are more even, the new sheriff, Virgil decides that it’s time to take the Cowboys down once and for all. The two sides have a big fight with the cops emerging victorious. The criminals aren’t done yet though and decide to go for low blows by targeting their wives and innocent bystanders all around. Wyatt has had enough by this point and after sending the injured away, decides to destroy all of the Cowboys.

The climax has a lot of action as a result as there were many Cowboys. I didn’t realize quite how many until this sequence as the massacre took a while and the heroes had to go to many different areas. Wyatt is pretty skilled and good at dodging enemy fire, but he was still a little outmatched against the main bandit. Fortunately for him, Doc Holliday managed to get to the villain first and won in their big gunfight. Wyatt wouldn’t have lived through the experience without his friend and Doc Holliday did steal the show on quite a few occasions.

He was always eager for a fight and had the skills to back it up. He was the only figure that the villains were openly afraid of and they all ducked their fights with him throughout the movie. They never had a problem facing off with Wyatt and the others, but when Holliday would show up they’d make some excuses and get out of there. He felt like a good anime character in that respect as you rarely see characters so confident and battle hungry in films. It was a nice change of pace. The rest of the heroes were pretty good as well though. Wyatt stuck up for justice as well and could hold his own in a fight. Virgil helped spur the heroes on as well in the initial battles. While he may have lost by the end, he lasted a while.

The film was good at switching up the tempo as well. The rainstorm near the end where the characters were trapped in the tavern and being picked off one by one was pretty atmospheric. It was easy to forget that the characters were even in the desert at that point as it just felt like a completely different movie. One of the positives of being a long film is that you can dramatically change the tone and have enough content on both sides where the adventure feels even longer. The villains definitely had a powerful counter attack at this point.

While the film was pretty happy for most of it, it also got pretty dark during other moments. The scene where they have to operate on one of the characters was pretty violent as well. This definitely was the wild west as the heroes couldn’t rely on anyone else for help. They had to do everything by themselves and had no protection from the enemy as a result. It was pretty tense throughout with everyone being in trouble. The film has a happy ending, but it was difficult to get there.

The writing for this film is pretty solid as there are quite a lot of memorable lines. You’ll remember them well even after the film is over. Writing can certainly help to make a difference in a film like this. The villains are all rather unlikable, in particular the one who is always drunk. The writing does a good job of keeping him as a threat though without making him silly or incompetent. You want the villains to at least be a reasonable threat the whole time. It was also nice to see some of them defect and join the heroes as well so they weren’t all soulless yes men who eagerly went down the dark path.

On a side note, the bar tenders must have had nerves of steel back in these days. It seems like fights always break out over there and everyone had guns back in those days. I really would not have wanted that job since it seems so dangerous. I’m sure a lot of bandits and outlaws would not pay their tab and it was probably hard to enforce that. I imagine the average lifespan of a bartender was quite short, but then again, it probably was for any occupation. I can’t think of a single safe one in this environment. They were all rather lethal.

Overall, I’m still not really a fan of westerns in general. It’s not my favorite locale and I just prefer the cleaner city kind of atmosphere where the characters are constantly in air conditioned environments and you can forget that the great outdoors even exists. That being said, Tombstone is probably the best one that you can expect to find. It’ll be hard for a Western to topple it and this one is also educational at the same time as you’ll learn a bit about history in the process. Doc Holliday would certainly be proud of his portrayal in this film if he was still alive since he was given a lot of props and respect throughout. It’s an intense film and a lot certainly happens. Especially if you do like westerns, you should check this film out ASAP.