Based on the Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel. Set in the shadows of Mt. Vesuvius just before its famous eruption, the film begins with Glaucus, a Roman legionnaire, returning to his home from ... See full summary »
In Mexico at the time of the Revolution, Juan, the leader of a bandit family, meets John Mallory, an IRA explosives expert on the run from the British. Seeing John's skill with explosives, Juan decides to persuade him to join the bandits in a raid on the great bank of Mesa Verde. John in the meantime has made contact with the revolutionaries, and intends to use his dynamite in their service. Written by
A typically strong Leone film with added interesting political content
John Malloy is an IRA explosives expert, on the run in Mexico. Juan Miranda is a Mexican bandit with no interest in the political upheaval in his country and only a dream of hitting the large bank his father once failed to rob. When the two meet, Juan sees John's explosives as the way into the ban, but John has no interest and it is only when Juan frames him for the murder of some senior soldiers that John relents. Arriving in the town, the bank looks like a simple hit if they can find some way of distracting the masses of soldiers that now control the small town luckily the revolution is in full swing and rebels are in great demand; but it is not long before Juan's idea of a simple bank robbery sees him up to his neck in a struggle that he has no interest in.
Many reviewers have said how strong the Leone formula is and I won't be able to add much to their words but for me this is a fine film mainly because it takes apart yet another of the cinema myths of the noble revolutionary fighters and has a fascinating thread of political commentary running all the way through it. It doesn't open this way though, rather it starts with Leone's usual brand of wit and confrontation between John and Juan and it all feels like it will be similar (and just as good) to some of Leone's other westerns. However, about an hour in, it becomes more interesting thanks to the rather shocking portrayal of the revolution (on both sides) and the ripping into the ideas behind it. It only adds to the basic plot and, when it becomes the main focus, the film is stronger for it, although Leone's Marxist views may be a little hard to swallow for some viewers in the west. That said, it does still work as a typical Leone western and fans of his will still love this film.
The cast is good but you gotta wonder how those accents would have been mauled if the film had not been as roundly good certainly Coburn's attempts at an Irish brogue are not the most convincing I've heard. Other than that though he is good in the lead role, coping well with making an IRA character "likeable" without damaging the cynicism and regret that exists within him. His flashback scenes are convincing even if it is not that important to the main thrust of the film. Steiger is less serious at first but develops his character well, despite having to cope with a "road to Damascus" moment as part of it. He is consistently amusing as a character and he does tend to dominate his scenes to good effect. Support is fine but really these two men are the film and they do it very well, coping with the laughs, tension and political commentary equally well.
Overall, a typically strong film from Leone that has all his usual formula touches as well as plenty of commentary of value. The direction and use of music are as good as always and the cast cope well with the demands of the script. Reviewers who have taken this as an attack on John Ford's idea of the revolutionary Irishman are perhaps a little off since the film only confirms Ford's usual pointing out of "printing the myth" but it still has plenty of value and interesting political commentary.
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