Ewan Gleadow

Review: A Fistful of Dollars (55th Anniversary)

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Having never seen a Clint Eastwood performance (aside from his cameo in Casper) I decided to remedy this apparent blasphemy by checking out a few of his older classics.

By some coincidence, it turns out that this is the 55th Anniversary of A Fistful of Dollars, the film that began one of cinema’s most prominent trilogies. Considering its relevance and universally esteemed status, it seemed only fair to check it out and see if it holds up after all these years. 

Eastwood is certainly a strong leading performer. His role as Joe may be his most ruthless, cunning and interesting character of all. That being said, I’m only able to compare this performance to a Dirty Harry joke appearing in Casper. Joe has all the trademark tropes of the western period, but what helps the movie somewhat is Eastwood’s stellar performance and delivery. Not only that, but director Sergio Leone works effortlessly to create some unique spins on an oversaturated genre. 

Leone’s direction works in a number of ways. His focus on reactionary visuals and some great action scenes serves his western well, with A Fistful of Dollars boasting a very competent cast and crew. Some of the performances certainly stand out more prominently than others, with Eastwood leading the movie with a grandiose and often excellent performance. What would soon become the iconic “Man with No Name” is such a well written and fleshed out role for Eastwood to take on. 

What is a letdown however are the dubs and some performances of the supporting characters. It’s not so much let down by the poorly dubbed over voice roles, but because the script lacks somewhat for several characters throughout. Although a sense of danger is clear, it doesn’t become apparent through the script, there’s no character that holds any fear and it creates a great number of two-dimensional characters. But even with these two-dimensional characters, fleshing out everyone would’ve been a waste of time, getting in the way of the greater action set pieces throughout. 

This transfers well throughout A Fistful of Dollars, which benefits from a great assortment of action set pieces and violent Western tropes. The ending of the movie is stellar, it clinched a higher rating, that scene alone was worth it. Even after fifty-five years of it being released, spoiling what happens is criminal. Suffice to say, it’s one of the greatest build-ups to a climactic fight scene to round off an incredible movie.  

Scored by Ennio Morricone, possibly the finest working composer in film today, A Fistful of Dollars has an extremely strong soundtrack which compliments the action well. It’s by far one of the best parts of the movie, with a great consistency that builds tension better than any performance could. 

Leone’s first entry into what would become one of Hollywood’s most well-respected trilogies is a strong one. A superb spaghetti Western that will appeal to those new to the genre like me and those that are seasoned veterans. A Fistful of Dollars provides us with a movie that can introduce newer fans, capitalise on returning ones and above all can create a brilliant world-building experience throughout its comfortably short running time.