AKA Duck, You Sucker.
A film from Sergio Leone that manages to fit in a lot of his usual tricks while also feeling a step removed from his better-known works, A Fistful Of Dynamite is his most comedic movie, and yet it doesn't skimp on the moments of explosive violence (literally).
James Coburn plays John, the Irish "rebel" who is happily driving around Mexico on his motorbike until he crosses paths with a Mexican bandit (Juan, played by Rod Steiger). The initial encounter quickly reveals John's skill with explosives, something that Juan can see being very useful as he thinks about a particularly rich bank he has wanted to rob for some time. John is reluctant to help, to put it mildly, but the two soon form an unlikely alliance, leading them on a path that will get them more involved with the Mexican Revolution, to the apparent delight of John and despair of Juan.
Once again, Leone shows that he knows who to pick for his leading roles. Although I have limited exposure to both Coburn and Steiger (sad, I know), both men quickly beguile viewers here with their laid-back acting styles and natural charisma. Coburn possibly edges ahead, but Steiger features in more of the comedic moments, and plays them wonderfully. This is very much a mismatched "buddy" movie and therefore relies on the chemistry of the leads, both individually and as they interact with one another, so the casting of Coburn and Steiger plays a huge part in how enjoyable this is. The rest of the cast are decent enough, although there's a lack of some of the memorable supporting players who populated the "Dollars" trilogy. Romolo Valli has some good moments, David Warbeck is an important figure in a number of flashback sequences, and Antoine Saint-John is the main villain of the piece (although there is really more than one, and just how bad they are is relative to your own views on morality and treachery).
Despite the focus here being on explosions rater than gunshots, the structure is similar to what we have seen from Leone in his other movies. Each set-piece seems to feel a bit bigger than the previous one, culminating in a grand finale that supercedes everything that came beforehand while still taking the time to reveal some more about one of the central characters, and what has motivated them throughout the entire film.
It looks very good, as you would expect, and many people enjoy the Ennio Morricone score (although I wasn't all that taken with it), but there's nothing here that puts it on a par with any of the other masterpieces from Leone. Not to say that the film is bad, it just doesn't reach the ridiculously high standards set by the man in charge. I absolutely recommend people give it a watch, it's probably the least-seen of Leone's filmography, and it's one that I can also see as an easy choice to revisit and enjoy. It's just not a classic, but they can't all be classics.
Here's a nice disc release.
American amigos can get a blu here.