16 April 2001 | MadReviewer
Brutal, brilliant, and one of the best Westerns ever made
A sprawling Western epic that follows the adventures of three gunfighters looking for $200,000 in stolen gold, Sergio Leone's `The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly' is a masterpiece, one that continues to get better and better with each viewing. In a way, it's a morality play, weighing the consequences of good and evil, but it does so in a realistic manner. Sometimes, crime does pay, at least in the short term, and sometimes good does go unrewarded. This film probably signaled the death knell of the traditional John Wayne `White Hat/Black Hat' Western.
The three main characters make the film. Lee Van Cleef (`The Bad') is evil personified. Totally ruthless, he'll do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Clint Eastwood (`The Good') is the Man With No Name, not really `good' in a traditional sense . . . but he has a certain sense of honor and tries to do the right thing. (Watch the scene when he gives a dying Confederate soldier a puff of his cigar - powerful, and it sums up everything that the Man With No Name is all about, without saying a single word.) Eli Wallach (`The Ugly') is Tuco, and he's easily the most complex - if not the best - character in the film. All impulse and rage, Tuco spins wildly throughout the movie, stealing, lying, pretending to be Clint Eastwood's best friend in one scene, trying to kill him in another - Tuco truly represents `the ugly' side of people.
The movie is long, but there's not a wasted scene in the film. Each one slowly lets the film unfold with a certain style and grace, revealing more about each character and what's going on. The pacing is incredible, as is the direction - Sergio Leone manages to build a lot of uncomfortable tension in the film, keeping the film from ever getting predictable. Any typical Western cliché that you can possibly think of is either given a unique twist or utterly destroyed by Leone's masterful storytelling. Of special mention is Ennio Morricone's score, which is absolutely perfect. Two scenes - one in a Union prison camp, one in the climatic gunfight in the cemetery at the end of the film - are amazing on their own, but they become absolutely astonishing with combined with Morricone's powerful score.
This movie is absolutely brilliant. If you haven't seen it yet, I strongly urge to do so. Immediately. (And then, go watch `Unforgiven' . . . in a way, I think that `Unforgiven' is the sequel to `The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - it's the story of what eventually happened to the Man With No Name.) `The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly' is easily one of the best Westerns ever made. A++