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Giù la testa (1971)
Sergio Leone's Best Film You Never Saw
I hadn't heard of Duck, You Sucker (which is sometimes known as A Fistful of Dynamite) at all until I got a box set of Sergio Leone films for my birthday. It came with the obligatory Dollars Trilogy with Clint Eastwood (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), but it also came with this movie called Duck, You Sucker that I hadn't ever heard of. Well, last night I popped it in and watched it. What followed was one of the most wonderful, thoughtful, and awesome westerns I had ever seen. The film is about a low class bank robber named Juan (Rod Steiger) who teams up with a charismatic I.R.A explosives expert named John Mallory (James Coburn) to heist a large bank in Mexico. Yet, instead of that they get thrown head over heels into the Mexican revolution. One of the reasons I was so blown away by Duck, You Sucker was the fact that it was so different then most of Leone's other westerns. It had some similar parts to it, but it really felt completely different than his Dollars Trilogy or Once Upon a Time in The West. It dealt with much more political subjects and seemed to go a lot deeper into character than most of his other films. Don't get me wrong, I love his other movies to death. Yet, this one was different in such a good way. It starts out with Juan boarding a stagecoach filled with rich white people, all of them looking at him in disgust and being generally racist and elitist. This was when I started to see Leone grappling with issues like class discrepancy and stuff like that. I thought he was just touching on a subject like that. No, about halfway through the film it starts really dealing with the Mexican revolution and how it affected the Mexicans. One shot shows soldiers just massacring rebels in pits, and not just the adult men. Women and children are not spared. The film isn't all horrifying war stuff like that though. It somehow manages to take comedic scenes, exciting western action, and very emotional and in depth scenes and marry them in a beautiful way. There are certain parts that are very cool classic Leone western scenes. Then there are these very touching exchanges between Juan and John that are just beautiful. There's also a series of flashbacks that give John's character some background. They all take place in what we think is Ireland and are all done incredibly well. The amount of range this film has is fantastic. I honestly can't recommend it enough. Another great thing here are the explosions. Nowadays we have CGI explosions in our movies. It's amazing to see that when stuff gets blown up in this movie, it's for real. The explosions look so raw and real, because they are. It's better than CGI could ever do. There's one scene in particular where a bridge is blown up. It's one of the most incredible things I've seen on film. One trademark of Sergio Leone films are the musical scores done by Ennio Morricone. You probably have heard The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly one, or maybe some of the others. They all have a very distinct sound. They remind me of a warrior marching into battle, or two men facing off in a gunfight. The score for Duck, You Sucker is one of Morricone's best. It started off kind of slow and I was quite skeptical, then it get's better and it really grows on you. To tell you the truth, I'm listening to it right now. When the movie started out it seemed like any other Leone film. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. But it seemed like it could be a For a Few Dollars More-esque bank heist western. I really liked that movie so I was excited. Instead, I got a politically charged and very emotional film with a lot more thematic weight than any western I've seen in a while. I haven't seen all of his movies so I can't say for sure, and I'd want to watch this again before I made any judgments, but Duck, You Sucker may be my favorite Sergio Leone film. And this is coming from someone who genuinely loves The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Again, I'm not too sure about that yet. Duck, You Sucker is different then most classic westerns I've seen because it mixes great western style and tropes with heartfelt messages and serious character development. If you haven't noticed by now, I really loved the film. I'm surprised this hasn't reached the level of notoriety that many western (particular Leone) movies have gained. It's better than many, like High Noon, that have become quite famous. With Duck, You Sucker, Sergio Leone proves yet again that he is a master of the genre. If you haven't seen it, I urge you to do so as soon as you can. Duck, You Sucker is terrific.