Clint Eastwood

For a Few Dollars More

Year: 1965
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Sergio Leone, Fulvio Morsella, and Luciano Vincenzoni

RYAN’S REVIEW

Coming out right off the heals of its predecessor, A Fistful of Dollars, this movie was everything a good sequel should be. More of the same but better. This movie has more gun slinging, more at stake, and more Eastwood. As I continue this effort in realizing what I have been missing in all the years I avoided these movies I see more and more how foolish I was to wait so long.

I was confused as first because the villain, El Indio, is played by the same actor who played the villain in the first film, Gian Maria Volonte. Although I can’t argue with the decision to cast him again because the guy made such a great bad guy the first time around. I thought the addition of another bounty hunter in Lee Van Cleef was a good one but he took too much screen time from Eastwood. Eastwood didn’t get to be the ultimate hero in this movie but he is the guy that rides off into the sunset, with all the bounties and he grabs the extra loot out of the tree on his way out.

In haste to finish out this trilogy I’m going to wrap up this review as a simple one. I may have liked A Fistful of Dollars a little bit more but I liked this one enough. In my opinion the best sequels are the ones that build on their story and get bigger.  This movie did a great job at that and I look forward to seeing the next one. I have never been a fan of westerns so take my word for it when I tell you that this one is worth your time and you won’t be disappointed by it.

A Fistful of Dollars

Year: 1964
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Written By: Several people are credited with both story and screenplay

RYAN’S REVIEW

Having just seen this movie for the first time in my life I’m ashamed to have had such a high opinion of myself as a movie fan. How is it that I see nearly everything for my entire life and make it 30 years without seeing this? I have always been aware of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy but never took the time to sit down with it. I have never been a big fan of westerns and I never really took to Clint Eastwood when I was younger. What a fool I was. Having seen this movie for the first time I now have a whole new perspective on all the movies that followed. This is an incredible movie, Clint Eastwood was a certifiable badass, and it set the bar high for the movies that would follow suit.

I have mentioned before that I was a late comer to appreciating Clint Eastwood. I grew up watching men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone play the part of the hero and I never understood what people was in Eastwood. It was lost on me in my youth how this skinny man, who old even when I was young, was perceived as a badass. When I got older I remember watching Dirty Harry with inexplicable preconceived notions about Eastwood and not being impressed. It wasn’t until 2008 when I saw Gran Torino that I understood what everyone else already knew about. Older old man Eastwood was intimidating as hell in that movie and I grew a new appreciation for him. It lead me to decide that I would eventually watch his “Man with No Name” trilogy and I have finally gotten around to starting it. One thing I want to make clear, now I understand.

I understand now why everyone saw something in Eastwood that I did not. It all started here, 20 years before I was even born, back in 1964 when he and Sergio Leone started a three year journey together. This movie not only opens my eyes to what I was missing in Eastwood but it gives a whole new perspective for me to all the action movies that followed. How Eastwood’s drifter strolls into town and starts playing two sides against one another was awesome. It’s the type of idea and the kind of film that influenced everything that followed.

I have never been much of a western fan and probably never will be, but I admire what is awesome. This movie is really awesome and I hope I can encourage others to check out what I somehow missed for 30 years. I look forward to watching the next two installments of this trilogy. Thoughts will follow with each film.

A Perfect World

Year: 1993
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: John Lee Hancock

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie distinctly reminds me of my brother and our youth. It was a movie he liked a lot and for some reason I associated it with him and the feeling I had in looking up to him as a child. I like this movie but it’s not one I really love or identify with. It made its way into the collection in the same way that plenty of movies that truthfully don’t belong have made it in. Amazon Prime suggested it to me with its nice low price and fancy no shipping cost. I looked at it and I thought of my brother, pressed the order button and now it has it’s own place on the shelf.

Now, looking back I think this is interesting because it was a Clint Eastwood film I really liked before I had come to the realization that Clint Eastwood was a fantastic filmmaker. Of course Clint Eastwood has been making great movies for my entire lifetime but I never bought into his tough guy image until Gran Torino . By that time (2008) I was just late to a party that everyone had already had a great time at. I have watched and enjoyed many Eastwood films since coming to the realization he deserved my respect, but this one stands out as one that I appreciated without knowing he was the man at the helm.

Clint Eastwood is a truly gifted director but I have not always been his biggest fan as an actor. Specifically during the time this movie came out I saw him as nothing more than a cliché. The ever grisly and hard faced cowboy. Which is exactly what he is in this film as the wise and experienced Texas Ranger. He does his thing in this movie and there is nothing wrong with his performance but I don’t think there is anything exceptional about it either. If anything it’s a performance that only serviced to harden my stance that he was nothing more than a cliché.

I think the strength of this film is in the performance of Kevin Costner. I was not a big fan of Costner either in the 90s either but I do believe in giving credit where it is due. Costner played a really great part as the quietly intelligent criminal that befriends the little boy and becomes the father figure he himself never had. Costner had great chemistry with the young actor who played Phillip/Buzz, T.J. Lowther.

I like the themes of the movie that even bad people can be good, but in the end they are still bad guys. Butch wins us over by becoming a father figure to Buzz and developing a bond with him that warms our hearts. Yet before it is all over he reminds us why he is a bad guy. It’s chilling when he becomes full on criminal again. So much so that even Buzz, who has grown to love him, won’t stand by and allow it to go on. Butch may have been really intelligent and had a soft heart for kids, but he was a violent and dangerous man all the same.

One interesting factoid about this film is that it references JFK coming to Dallas. Of course JFK was ultimately assassinated in Dallas and it could easily be misunderstood as this movie taking place right before that fateful trip.  It does not however, the movie references too many campaigns and the election year was in 1962 while JFK was killed in 63. I don’t think the year of the setting is actually said in the film but it had to have taken place before November of 1962. I was disappointed to find this out because when I was watching it I felt like it was about something that took place in Texas just weeks before the President was killed. The kind of thing that might have happened. The kind of thing that nobody would really know much about or ever even remember. The kind of crazy story that happens all over the world all the time and gets passed over in the aggressive rush of progressive time. The world keeps on turning and people move on and forget it ever happened. It still is that type of story, it just doesn’t rest in the shadow of such a great American tragedy.

I like this movie but I don’t love it. I think it lives up to the standards of it’s filmmaker’s quality and ability but beyond that it’s not one I expect to find myself talking people into. It’s a cool movie but I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to see it. This movie would be great for Clint Eastwood and/or Kevin Costner fans but otherwise it will be one I imagine is largely forgotten in time.

NEXT MOVIE: Phantoms (1998)

Gran Torino

Year: 2008
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Nick Schenk and Dave Johannson

RYAN’S REVIEW

I had never been a Clint Eastwood fan until 2008 when I saw this movie.  For my whole life I had thought that Eastwood’s image as a tough guy was a load of crap.  I didn’t see it despite what anybody said, and nobody had been able to convince me otherwise.  It was this movie that changed my mind and made me accept that I was wrong.  At the age of 78 years old Clint Eastwood played a part that scared the shit out of me.  As Walt Kowalski Eastwood showed me what everybody else had always already seen in him.  He played one bad ass old man in this one, and I have had to show him the respect he is due since seeing it. Not only does he himself specifically give a great performance but he crafted an incredible movie all together.  Eastwood has become quite a good filmmaker as his career progressed and this movie is a great example of that.

I love this movie; it’s a beautiful story that gives me hope for the potential of the human spirit.  Sometimes we can get lost in our own feelings of hate and disappointment.  Walt is a character who is disappointed in the world.  He has lived too long and outlasted the only people he really cared about.  He is bitter and he is a bigot. He has lived a life that has taught him to feel the way he does about the world and at his age he is set in his ways.  He takes a chance when circumstances call for action and it changes the rest of his life.  He opens up a little bit and learns to appreciate the culture he has never understood before. We only see Walt in the last stage of life but we see him grow so much as a person it is inspiring.  Walt was already growing as a person when he found out that his days were numbered.  He chose to use the time he had left to make a difference where he could.  It is an admirable thing to do and made for a great story that we can all learn from.

Something else I really appreciate about this film is that it is real.  The events portrayed aren’t sugar coated but seen as they would happen in the real world.  Walt takes a lot of chances and some things work out for him but life does not come without consequences.  He doesn’t realize the weight of his actions at times and other people feel the wrath of those who crossed paths with Walt. Some might have hoped for a grand shoot out at the end with Walt prevailing heroic but that would just be the work of Hollywood shenanigans.  Walt’s clock was ticking and he knew it.  He was an old man who stood no chance against a number of young gangsters, whether they had any balls or not.  Any idiot can point a gun and shoot as we see.  Walt did the only thing he could do.  He sacrificed himself to prevent Thao from doing anything rash, to protect his neighbors from these hoodlums.  He set his affairs in order and he allowed himself to be killed in order to get those guys locked up for murder.  Walt was a hero if I have ever seen one, in more ways than one.

In the end this film is about honor, about learning to be a better person and doing something that will make a difference.  I think there is so much all of us can learn from this movie.  If nothing else we should learn that we are never too old to realize we were wrong about something.  We should learn that it is never too late to make a difference and we can always make a different decision.  Sometimes making one choice differently than we normally would can change everything about who we are.  It’s why we should always try to live life with an open mind.  Keeping your mind closed can keep so many things from you; it can only hurt as you journey through life.  Take a lesson from Walt Kowalski, understand that the world can still surprise you and try to appreciate the things in life you don’t understand.

The young priest played by Christopher Carley brings just as much to the movie as Eastwood.  He is a man of the clothe who has thick skin, as those men should.  He perseveres when another man in his position could have simply forsaken the promise he made to Walt’s wife. He stands tall no matter what Walt says to him and eventually he earns Walt’s respect.  It is an incredible and touching relationship that makes the movie so much better.  In the very small role he played I think John Carrol Lynch was excellent. He has played many roles but the main one that comes to mind was his role in Fargo where he was simply there, but still maintained an interesting presence. One of my favorite parts from him in this film is at Walt’s funeral in the end.  When the young priest recounts what Walt first said to him it is crude and honest.  When he says it you can see Lynch sitting behind Walt’s children in the audience and he is laughing. That was the Walt he knew and loved, it was the same Walt we as the audience knew and we can share in his delight.

The Asians portrayed in this movie are Hmong people from various parts of South East Asia. The actors that played the parts were great specifically Bee Vang and Ahney Her.  Their culture is one that Walt lived a long time right next to but knew nothing about.  Once he made the slightest attempt to understand it he saw that it was much more than he thought it was.  As director Eastwood encouraged the Hmong actors to adlib lines in their native language and I think that added a lot to the script.  Hmong people do not hail from one specific country but from a specific region that spans over a few countries including China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Many of us as Americans are just like Walt; we look at foreign people as if they do not belong.  Yet who does? We are a nation made up of immigrants and it would benefit us all to keep that in mind before judging others.  We judge before we know anything about what we are judging as we see in this movie.  Walt is under the impression that Hmong is an actual place until Sue explains a little about her people to him.

The end of this movie is shrouded in tragedy but ends on a good note. Walt has the last laugh and he dies happy having given everything he had left to those that deserved it the most.  We see his family role their eyes and exude disappointment at the reading of the will but they do not matter.  That kid who really loved Walt is the one smiling and we are all smiling with him.  This is a great movie that always reminds me I still have things to learn about life and that there is always hope others might eventually do the same.  I encourage everyone to see this movie and I think it is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I get sucked into this movie every time that we watch it. I think it is one of the most powerful movies of its kind. I love Clint Eastwood in this film. He is a total hardass that is actually a really good guy on the inside. Throughout the film we get to see him learn about another culture. He gains respect for theirs and loses respect for his own.

This was a teaser poster for the movie. I really, really like it. Clint Eastwood is classic. His silhouette is very recognizable. You know who it is and he looks stern and mysterious. I am ninety-five percent sure that the font “Gran Torino” is written in is Gotham. (It’s one of my all time favorite fonts. Clean, simple, and beautiful.) Overall I think the design for this movie was very well done.

NEXT MOVIE: Grandma’s Boy (2006)