I enjoy modern films as much as the next guy, but I love the classics more. Back before the MTV filmmaking and the endless product placements. I have decided to write reviews on classic movies to try and inspire people to check them out - to see what real filmmaking truly is.
Now on to the inaugural review...
Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West"
"Instead of talking, he plays. And when he better play, he talks."
The Story: Family man Brett McBain and his three kids are killed by Frank (Fonda), the hired gun of railroad tycoon Mr. Morton as a means to try to gain ownership to a bit of land purchased by McBain who knew that it would be worth a lot of money soon due to railroad expansion.
Jill (Cadinale) arrives from New Orleans to move in McBain whom she married only a couple months before. As a result of the marriage, she is the owner of the land, which throws a wrench into Morton's plans. He sends his men to bully her into selling the land to him.
She has protection though through a man nicknamed "Harmonica" (Bronson) and Cheyenne (Robards), the man whom Frank framed for the murder of Jill's new family.
My Reaction (The Good/The Bad):
I'm going to get this out of the way -- I have a huge crush on Claudia Cardinale in this movie.
Can you blame me?
Not only is she incredibly beautiful, but she is quite an amazing actress. As the story advances, she goes from a shy, vulnerable woman to someone who just doesn't give a fuck and does what she must to survive the men who are chasing her and her newly acquired land.
Charles Bronson in this movie... WOW. His character in this movie oozes "cool". He's the kind of guy you'd expect James Dean to worship for his badassery. If he comes across a guy who doesn't like him, he doesn't pull his gun until he absolutely has to. Instead, he plays the same, haunting tune on his Harmonica as a rattle snake would rattle it's tale as a warning: Mess with me and I'll make you dead.
I think I just shit myself...
The other actors are great in this movie as well. Henry Fonda is a cold-hearted bastard who's concentrated on three things: Money, killing and trying to screw Jill McBain.
Jason Robards as Cheyenne is a great character. Mostly a bumbling outlaw who turns into a badass at the drop of a hat. He wants to live life laughing, but if you do something wrong, like ruining his fun, he'll teach you what's what.
My only complaint about this movie is that it drags a bit. Some of the slow scenes are really great in that they increase the tension while allowing us to absorb the scenery with Ennio Morricone's incredible score, but most of the time they just drag with little effect on the story. Basically, Leone could have trimmed a little fat here and there, but it's the lack of fat to trim that makes the length of the film somewhat forgivable.
If you enjoy Westerns then this is an absolute must. Sergio Leone's last Western and he delivered with a bang (pun slightly intended).