Showing 1 - 1 of 1 Reviews for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo.)
Posted on 2/18/13 06:07 PM
Sergio Leone has pretty much defined the perception of Westerns in today's culture with his idiosyncratic take on it. For the longest time I've refused to accept Spaghetti Westerns as true Westerns, seeing them only as bastardized, bloated, sensationalized parodies of the beloved American genre. Which, in a sense, they were. However, Leone's Dollars trilogy is still composed of three mindblowingly kick-ass films. So, I've compromised and decided that even though Spaghetti Westerns clearly differentiate from the traditional Western as much as they are derivatives, that doesn't mean they haven't earned their place to be equals, or even superiors, in every way.
"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" is the final film of the Dollars trilogy, which started with a pale imitation of "Yojimbo" (Fistful,) improved vastly with the impeccable "For a Few Dollars More," and finally peaked with Leone's personalized, auteuristic, bravura masterpiece. This slippery slope to greatness features a filmmaker who is constantly evolving and improving on his craft. Eastwood's "man with no name," opportunist-vigilante-with-a-heart-of-gold archetype started as a gunslinging mimicry of Mifune's ronin and, perhaps, even Alan Ladd's Shane; "Fistful" was more or less Eastwood being badass for an hour and a half. By the time of "More," he's involved in a much more layered story, finally emerging as a manifestation of a conscience or an angel, dishing out tough love with his colt and, presumably, his massive girth.
In "Good," Eastwood's character is even treated to a character arch when he witnesses the inane slaughter of confederate and union soldiers by their mutually bellicose hands. He transforms from the opportunist bounty hunter to an opportunist bounty hunter who has at least realized his place in a larger, humanist context. The two prior main conflicts in the trilogy, offered by megalomaniac, cutthroat gangs and an antagonist also possessing great skill at his craft, manifest into Van Cleef's character, the "Bad." Nothing too complex here; however, Leone perfectly presents a villain pristine for a great story. We're introduced to Van Cleef's character, see him do something awful which infringes our sense of justice, and, for the rest of the film, we hate him and hope that our heroes stop him. No mitigation or meandering that a good amount of modern films would do in ruining a perfectly good bad guy.
The jewel of the crown would be the mediator, in a sense, of the two, Wallach's character Tuco, the "Ugly." In "More," Leone breaks new ground by actually having an internal conflict in a character's backstory (Van Cleef's broken heart and vengeful drive to find inner peace by killing his nemesis in addition to being a ruthless yet wise bounty hunter.) In "GBU," Tuco is a character who not only exhibits uncanny mastery of the firearm, keeping true to the trilogy's spirit of showcasing superhuman abilities, but who has also been written a superb backstory with depth. Carrying a swashbuckling attitude, a selfish greed which flirts too much with the itch to betray, and having no sense of altruism whatsoever, Tuco seemed like a character to be vilified until we learn of his past concerning his family issues. Pretty refreshing stuff for a film featuring people shooting at each other for three hours. Add a remarkable relationship between Tuco and Eastwood's character, one which grew out of a previous one of deceit, ambiguity, torture, and profit, as well as a MacGuffin treasure box which brings these three characters together, and we now have a story that is rich in addition to being thrillingly entertaining.
Clearly the film is very character driven and it's the turmoils and complex reciprocation among these characters which make this film such a wild treat. But, just as laudable are Leone's talent at milking any sequence dry for its suspenseful tension and his ability of aiding that with his incredible montage techniques, which, in my opinion, are so sophisticated and brilliant in their simplicity and bluntness that they harken back to Eisenstein's mastery. Themes from traditional Westerns such as camaraderie or the individual pitted against society are turned inside out to emphasize awesome shootouts. Toss Ennio Morricone, who more or less composed our current musical imagery of the West, usurping the folk music of Ford's films, into the mix and cinematic magic is born in a film which easily lives up to its impossibly high hype.