Written by: Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonté, Mara Krup, Luigi Pistilli
Returning to old grounds but with a different twist, comes a For a Few Dollars More. It brings back a familiar face we have come to love in a wildly new environment and now teaming up with someone else. Taking the ideas of the previous story, this film elevates the Spaghetti Western genre to a new height with the innovation on screen and the companionship built in order to take down a big bad guy.
Arriving in a new town, Manco or the man with no name (Clint Eastwood) learns of the opportunity to get a bounty on escaped prisoner El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté). Getting in his way and eventually becoming his ally is Colonel Douglass Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef) as they decide to put away their differences to split this payday.
With the unfettered success of A Fistful of Dollars, bringing back Manco set up the possibility to have more fun with this character and potentially learn more about him. He did not receive as much as a name in the first film, but a sequel presented the opportunity to get more of an idea of what this man represents. However, as what will become evident as this film plays through and eventually the third installment, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, learning more about the individual does not come at high importance. In a completely new place, Manco may be portrayed by Clint Eastwood but does not necessarily play the person from the previous film.
In For a Few Dollars More, instead of working two sides for a profit with deceit, he outright seeks the bounty of an escaped prisoner. Something he cannot do on his own easily, thus teaming with Mortimer. Bringing together these two elevate what this story could have been and a major reason why this surpasses the previous film. By not working alone, he has someone who he can directly stand next to as a worthy ally and potential adversary. In the previous film, he could easily take down everyone around him and it all simply became a numbers game. With his collaboration with Mortimer in this picture, at any moment their allegiances could splinter and a man of equal caliber with a pistol could take him down.
The friendship and bromance these two build together make the journey they go on so much more satisfying and seeing the way they operate together feels like watching two veterans at their highest capacity. It makes the sun-baked streets much easier to take on when you have at least one person to connect to. The villain they have to take on commits some of the worst acts known to man and very much deserves the bounty placed on his head. It certainly contributes to this film being a straightforward story about catching a bad guy as no ambiguity exists here nor does there need to be. The closest possible occurrence comes in the intentions of Maco and Mortimer being fully about the financial benefit not some sense of justice but in the process of getting their money, justice will eventually be served.
Building up from the first feature, composer Ennio Morricone truly steps it up with his score in For a Few Dollars More. Creating even more recognizable themes and tracks, the music, at times, took over the scenes. This happened, especially in the sequences where silence from the characters became prevalent. What they were thinking may not have been clear but the music certainly assisted in setting the stakes for what will occur with the pistols loaded and ambition turned all the way up.
As much as Clint Eastwood has owned this character and has remained the face of this trilogy ever since their release, the most impressive individual turned out to be Lee Van Cleef as Mortimer. He steps in to team up with Eastwood and pretty much steals the show for me. Not only does his character stand out as a worthy ally of equal skill, but his presence as a character provided a level of calmness no other character displays. As it becomes evident as the story continues, Mortimer has more than just money as a reason to go after El Indio and this emotional reason allows the audience to connect with someone. It was never going to happen with Manco, which allows Mortimer to easily fit right in. Van Cleef plays a major part in why this character finds so much success in this feature and gets brought back in the third installment.
Raising the personal stakes with even better action, For a Few Dollars More stands as a complete upgrade to the preceding film in every way. It adds more intrigue to the story overall with the inclusion of Mortimer as an ally. Together they devise incredibly fun plans in order to get one over on El Indio in order to get the paycheck and consequently also bring him to justice for the vast injustices he has caused. The gunfights have more flair and the sayings get even quippier, this film demonstrates what the Spaghetti Western can be when at its best and has Sergio Leone working at the height of his powers.