Eastwood's Bounty Hunter
In 1964 Sergio Leone gave us his vision of what a western should be with "A Fistful of Dollars" a reworking of Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo". Whilst small in scale "A Fistful of Dollars" was a brilliant movie, full of style and intrigue and to be honest it's no surprise that Leone would do a follow up. So in 1965 we got "For a Few Dollars More" a movie which not directly a sequel has all that same style and magic of "A Fistful of Dollars" and of course Clint Eastwood who would return as "the man with no name" although again he has a name, this time Monco. But where as "A Fistful of Dollars" was low scale, "For a Few Dollars More" gave us a glimpse of what Leone could do on an epic scale.
Monco (Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino) a bounty hunter who is on the trail of El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte) discovers he's not the only one after him as he meets Col. Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) another bounty hunter with his eyes on the $10,000 reward. Although untrusting of each other Monco and Mortimer join forces to try and bring in El Indio and his gang of bank robbing banditos be it dead or alive.
Although "For a Few Dollars More" has that feeling of being almost an epic, the storyline is by no means anymore complicated. In fact the storyline is very simple, two bounty hunters who are after the same bad guy end up joining forces to try and capture him and his band of bank robbing banditos. That is really as deep as it goes but by Leone introducing the second character of Col. Douglas Mortimer it allows him to embellish the storyline so it feels bigger, more epic than before even when in reality it isn't.
Leone develops the two characters taking his time to develop Clint Eastwood's Monco as a man driven by one thing, the reward money for bringing in bad guys dead or alive, whilst Mortimer who as a bounty hunter is also driven by money also has a slight back story which leads to his desire to get El Indio. And when these two characters finally join forces after a hugely memorable scene where they shoot at each others hats, he continues to develop them, the mistrust each has for the other through to an almost respect and friendship.
And aside from the focus on Monco and Mortimer there are of course the bad guys which they are trying to capture. An almost classic, stereotypical group of bad guys but they are interesting because El Indio is borderline deranged with his drug taking and of course there is a sense of mistrust between various baddies.
Of course much of what makes "For a Few Dollars More" such a great movie is Sergio Leone's vision and styling. Whilst feeling more epic in scale there is still a sense of rawness to the movie, restrained embellishment so that whilst we get many memorable scenes the movie never becomes just about them. This means we still get those lingering close up camera shots of various faces, the gun fights and that whole dirty, gritty, realism where people get hurt and stay hurt.
But there is also a wonderful sense of imagination especially when it comes to the character of Col. Douglas Mortimer who carries a surprising collection of weapons, from the 4 rifles on his horse through to his pistol/rifle. I don't know whether these gadgets and ideas have been used in other movies, but it makes "For a Few Dollars More" and Mortimer interesting and imaginative.
Plus of course there is Ennio Morricone musical arrangements which add to that whole epic feeling. But strangely it's the less epic musical elements which make "For a Few Dollars More" so memorable from the song being whistled through to the music which is repetitively played from a pocket watch, a pivotal element of the movie. So strong are these two almost minor musical moments that both have been imitated in more modern movies.
Whilst Clint Eastwood returns as "the man with no name" although this time he is a bounty hunter called Monco, Lee Van Cleef is very much the star this time around as Col. Douglas Mortimer. Mortimer is by no means a complex character even with an extra reason to be tracking down El Indio but Van Cleef makes him interesting with his weaponry and the way he stares, almost squinting. Yes there is a lot of staring and squinting going on with Eastwood delivering more than his fair share but it works with Sergio Leone's love of close ups.
As for the actual baddies well maybe because none of the actors playing them is that well known is why for the most they are unmemorable with only Gian Maria Volonte as there drug staking leader El Indio really standing out. Although some of them are memorable for over dramatics when it comes to being shot and killed.
What this all boils down to is that "For a Few Dollars More" is a brilliant follow up to "A Fistful of Dollars" maintaining that rawness and intrigue yet making it feel more epic. Whilst Clint Eastwood returns and delivers another fine performance as Monco it is for me Lee Van Cleef who makes "For a Few Dollars More" so entertaining with his look of danger and his slight back story.