A crafty gunslinger plays two rival families against
one another in a town torn apart by greed and gold.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Directed by Sergio Leone
Written by Victor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil,
Starring Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, Antonio Prieto, José Calvo, Joseph Egger, Wolfgang Lukschy
Remake of 1961's Yojimbo
A Fistful of Dollars is arguably the most important spaghetti western to come out of Italy, as it brought the Italian western to America and made a star out of Clint Eastwood. Without this film, we never get Dirty Harry, Unforgiven, Gran Torino, or any number of incredible Eastwood films that followed his star-making turn as the Man With No Name. The film itself is wild, featuring violence that was not the usual western fare in the early 1960's and introducing audiences to an untamed kind of western that feels like it was ripped straight from the pages of history. No clean bright shirts here, John Wayne. Just ponchos, gunfights, and extremely overacted death scenes.
Eastwood is an unnamed gunslinger who comes to the town of San Miguel looking for work. What he finds is a dying town being fought over by two rival families, the Rojos and the Baxters. Seeing an opportunity, the gunslinger plays both sides against one another for his own benefit, but soon realizes he's the only thing standing in the way of both families destroying the innocents of the town. As far as story goes, it's simple enough and intriguing, especially once the gunslinger goes from rogue to hero. The film establishes a template that would be used in westerns to this day, and was the beginning of Leone's epic three-film masterpiece along with For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
A Fistful of Dollars is as quintessential as a western can get. The fight scenes are outrageously overacted to the point of insanity, Ennio Morricone's gorgeous score envelops every scene in pure western fantasy, and Eastwood's performance is just perfect. He was born to play an antihero gunslinger, and it shows. This is one of the those films that every movie buff owes it to themselves to watch at least once.