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John Chard
I was worried about you - all alone, with so many problems to solve... The middle part of Sergio Leone's dollars trilogy sandwich is a mighty hunk of meat and pasta. Plot has Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as bounty hunters who form a very uneasy alliance to bring down violent bandit El Indio (Gian Maria Volontè) and his gang. As befitting Leone in this sub-genre, the pic positively oozes charisma and class. His compositions are as striking as the coolness he wrings out from his lead actors, the characterisations bristling with a calm grizzle factor that beguiles as the story jumps from violence to suspense, from humour to misery, with surprises is store as well. The screenplay adheres to some clichés of the Western formula, but never at a cost to suspense and mystery, such as with the finale that looks set to be formulaic, but joyfully brings its own identity whilst simultaneously adding extra layers to the protags and antag. The dialogue (Leone and Luciano Vincenzoni) pings with literacy, something which is a pleasant mercy in the Spaghetti Western world, while Morricone fills the key scenes with aural shards of atmospheric delight. A great film in its own standalone right, but also a super precursor to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. 9/10

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