Monday, February 23, 2015

Movie review - "A Fistful of Dynamite" (1971) ***

After four Westerns that have been regarded as classics, Sergio Leone came up with a fifth that isn't - due, one suspects, to the casting in the lead of nobody's favourite action stars, Rod Steiger and James Coburn. Steiger actually is pretty good in a variation of Eli Wallach in The Good the Bad and the Ugly and Jason Robards in Once Upon a Time in the West - a colourful crook who accidentally finds himself the leader of a revolution. (This is a Western set during the Pancho Villa era of the 1910s.) He plays it broad and big as required, even though it's a bit off when we first see him he's urinating and a few minutes later he rapes a woman (I think it's meant to be alright because she's hoity toity).

I always had a soft spot for James Coburn, who does do his best but isn't entirely comfortably cast as an Irish revolutionary whose paths cross with Steiger. (Apparently George Lazenby was offered this role and turned it down!) The role is really meant for a tormented, stoic type - the Bronson/Eastwood part - and Coburn is at his best when gregarious. Also I didn't quite buy the chemistry between the two men.

It isn't s effective as other Leone Westerns but does has its moments - some epic battle scenes, the executions of revolutionaries in the rain, the discovery of the ambushed revolutionaries (it feels more like it was set in a European country occupied by the Nazis fighting a communist revolution), Ennio Morricone's score. It's an odd combination of comedy (lots of comic explosions) and melodrama. There's lots of odd flashbacks to Coburn's menage a trois with his mate and a girl back in Ireland which feels a little kinky. Flawed, but interesting.

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