A Fistful of Dollars

Year: 1964
Director: Sergio Leone
Cast: Clint Eastwood
So much cheese, corn and ham it could have been a sandwich if only there was some bread. I know a lot of purists would keelhaul an opinion like that because it's one of the iconic westerns that shaped the genre and set the template that would inspire filmmakers ever since.

I also didn't realise that Walter Hill's 1996 action film Last Man Standing was a remake of this (and a dozen others like it), with Bruce Willis as the 'nameless' John Smith who pits two warring gangs against each other for his own profit.

The idea has been explored across so many cultural film divides, from the lone frontier gunslinger to the samurai-for-hire (this version is actually a remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo), it's folklore, and even if you've never seen the classic westerns this movie is one of, you'll instantly recognise every cliché.

Clint is the atypical Man With No Name who drifts into a dustbowl Mexican town where the only man in regular work is the undertaker, courtesy of the two rival gangs who run guns for the corrupt government.

He sets about gaining the trust and confidence of both, with the help of the comic sidekick innkeeper, where he plays the fears and ambitions of one group off the other, causing the town to descend into carnage and chaos, with his own pocket filled by the experience.

Along the way he finds his heart by freeing the young wife imprisoned away from her family - an action that almost brings him undone, and drifts off into the sunset on his mule; the original Marlboro Man.

Worth seeing for the filmmaking techniques forged by the likes of Leone and his peers. Clint's icy stare from under his brim, the whistle tone whenever he does something ultra cool, the slow dialogue and fast zooms to heighten the tension on a character.

Leone could have been (and stayed) another schlock director like Argento, more famous for shoddy effects and corny techniques, but his magnum opus - Once Upon a Time in America - proved him worthy to be compared to Scorsese and Coppola.

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