Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volontè
Director: Sergio Leone
Mood: If you ever doubted the influential power of the Spaghetti Western and need to literally be shown the light by one of cinema’s greats.
For a Few Dollars More has officially restored my faith in Westerns.
That sounds like a super dramatic attention-seeking statement, but it’s true! I f*cking love this genre with all my heart, but I was getting burnt out from my recent choices. I wanted to deliver more variety in my reviews, but I ended up watching SO MANY DUDS.
Something had to give.
I watched A Fistful of Dollars back in 2019, when I first started this website. I thought it was okay, but it definitely didn’t live up to the hype and I’m just not an Eastwood fan. So I’ve intentionally skipped the other two DVDs in the set every single time I’ve picked a Western for the last three years.
But this week, in what was honestly an attempt to put the blame for another mediocre Western on someone else, I asked my fiancé to choose my movie. He said I owed it to my “fans” to finish what I started with the Dollars trilogy.
And also to stop reviewing so many Westerns nobody’s heard of.
For a Few Dollars More is a long-ass movie, but every scene is packed with cinematic payoffs. Story? Check. Action? Check. Plus, you get to experience the amazing moustaches of Lee Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volontè. It’s a total win. I’m sorry I waited so long to get on board.
For a Few Dollars More is the sequel to the film that defined the Spaghetti Western genre, A Fistful of Dollars. Our ‘Man With No Name’, the poncho-rocking bounty hunter (Clint Eastwood), actually has a name now: Monco.
And there’s another sharp-eyed bounty hunter in this story. His name is Col. Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef). He wears fine suits with his gun at the front, and has undeniable depth and charisma.
The two predators-for-hire learn that a killer named Indio (Gian Maria Volontè) has escaped prison, and has a juicy bounty on his head. They end up in the same town, confront each other in a highly enjoyable pissing contest of gunplay skills, and kinda-sorta join forces.
Meanwhile, Indio is running around doing murder, robbing banks, and having flashbacks of a rape he regrets (not shown too much the movie), which require him to get super high to forget.
Mortimer and Monco come up with a plan to infiltrate Indio’s gang, lure him to a bank, and get him captured. What they don’t count on is Indio clocking them both as bounty hunters, allowing him to draw them close and play them like puppets.
Then there’s a LOT more killing.
It’s a tough call who I like best in For a Few Dollars More, because we have two shining stars in Lee Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volontè. They REALLY made the movie for me.
I’ll have to take it to a bullet list:
- They both lead all of the scenes in the first 15 or so minutes, and they’re such good actors that you’re instantly drawn into the story
- Van Cleef is a refined man of honour who had to turn to bounty hunting, and gives you that stoic, infallible, well-dressed Southern lawman energy that makes Westerns so great (despite the actor being from New Jersey)
- In one of his first scenes, Van Cleef calmly walks out into the street, sees his prey escaping, rolls down a blanket of rifles from his horse, selects a gun and and makes the shot and it’s established that he’s a total badass
- Volontè is the ultimate Western villain, giving you this smokey-eyed, living definition of the word ‘swarthy’
- He was clearly a brilliant actor, capable of eight octaves of emotion within a single scene and fully immersing himself in the character
This franchise needed Van Cleef and Volontè. Eastwood is good, even strong in many of his scenes. But even antihero stories need a captivating bad guy, which you get in Indio. Meanwhile, Van Cleef steals every scene.
Indio really is a bloody excellent cinematic villain. He will kill ANYONE. Good guys, women, his own men. Even bugs.
There’s a great scene toward the end where Indio is fixated on smashing a single bug, and Volontè somehow makes that simple action a beautifully dark, dramatic performance of a lifetime. It’s so not what you expect from Spaghetti Westerns, or any serious Western really.
Volontè was actually in A Fistful of Dollars, too, as were actors Mario Brega, Benito Stefanelli, Aldo Sambrell, Lorenzo Robledo, and Antonio Molino Rojo. But here they play totally different characters and you really don’t care because it’s all low-budget yet high entertainment.
This is the movie where you fully get why new Westerns are influenced by Spaghetti Westerns and Sergio Leone.
I mean, I saw Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West and I loved that film. I’m okay at spotting when directors have used obvious techniques from A Fistful of Dollars, like the gritty closeups, which Sam Raimi amped up in The Quick and the Dead.
But I think the stronger influence on Western films comes from For a Few Dollars More.
Here, a low-budget Western is treated to the kind of artful camera work traditionally reserved for Hollywood dramas. Every single scene and each shot within it is a masterpiece in setting the mood, and telling the story through angles and lighting. Leone’s style eschewed the cookie-cutter look and feel of the ‘50s Western, and gave you something truly enthralling.
The sweat, blood, grit, and spit are so raw and detailed, it handily counters the cheaper quality of the audio, sets, and plot.
Leone knew how to toy with the audience, and take his time building tension through closeups of actors in a heated moment. Every twitch, every bead of sweat rising from an actor’s pores, it’s all agonizingly drawn out.
The action is just brilliant. Sure, sometimes you have Clint karate-chopping bad guys and it’s super cheesy. But the guns alone are fun to watch, and there’s so much non-CGI fighting and shooting that it really checks all the boxes,
My favourite scene, hands down, is when Monco and Mortimer test each other’s mettle by stepping on each other’s boots and then shooting the shit out of each other’s hats. In a bold series of incredible tricks, Monco appears to be the dominant sharpshooter. But then Mortimer leaves him agape with his own tricks, and it’s just so enjoyable.
At the start of this movie I was dreading the 131-minute runtime. And I admit, I did zone out a bit in the final half. The plot to take down Indio got kind of convoluted and implausible and melodramatic. But then Indio swoops in like, “ha ha! I knew you were bounty hunters all along and now I thwart you!” and the action soars.
All of the final scenes are cinematic gems. A lot of fans out there claim this middle child of the trilogy is the true standout, and so far I fully agree.
I was left pumped to have seen this movie, excited to watch The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and, most importantly, fully stoked to get back into more classic Westerns.
Fun Facts About A Few Dollars More:
- Eastwood made just $15K for the first movie in the trilogy, and pulled $50K for A Few Dollars More
- The set in Almería, Spain, was built for Leone and reused for scenes in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
- This movie relaunched Lee Van Cleef’s career after his turns in epic Westerns like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and High Noon were followed by a rough patch and lots of drinking
- The entire movie was shot silent, and sound was recorded post-production including dialogue, sound effects, and soundtrack
- Just like Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson were considered before Clint Eastwood for A Fistful of Dollars, they were also asked to play Mortimer before Van Cleef was signed
- The movie title is apparently a jab at the production company for A Fistful of Dollars, which saw the film’s popularity and refused to fully pay Leone for his work unless he made a sequel