Once Upon a Time in the West (R) - 1969 - Runtime: 165 minutes
Starring: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale
Director: Sergio Leone
I've had this movie on my shelf for a long time before I touched it. It's pretty sad because it's an awesome movie, too! We had one for sale used (the two-disc version! I love me some two-disc versions of movies! I get all excited and jump around when I get one. I did this like five times over when I got the five-disc set of Watchmen! Holy Cow! Five discs is like two and half two-disc sets! Thanks Annie, possibly the coolest sister-in-law ever. Just a smidge in front of Mollie, of course!) and the copy we had was only $3.99! I don't like westerns that much, but I've heard enough about this film to not pass up that deal. And it sat forever on the shelf. But I'm glad I got around to it because it's so good.
When I first popped it in and scanned the back of the box for the runtime I made the little math equation in my head, one hundred and sixty-five minutes = two hours and forty-five minutes! Oh no, not a western, too! I don't like westerns that much. But apparently I do now. Let me get this out of the way now: Claudia Cardinale was super hot. I don't know what she looks like now, but damn! Girl is smokin'! But back to the movie - at first I was a little skeptical as the movie starts out soooo slooow. But you have to get used to it (and I did!) because there's some wonderful magic being produced. It's the way Leone takes his time to build up the frenetic action that lasts only a few seconds. It's very intense and somewhat enthralling. You do get swept up in the revenge tale.
If you don't know the story, let me tell ya'll: Claudia Cardinale (so hot!) arrives at her new home only to find her fiancé has been brutally murdered, along with his kids. And the man behind it all is Frank (Henry Fonda), a cold, heartless bastard if there ever was one. She teams up with a local thug, Cheyenne and a mysterious drifter (Charles Bronson), dubbed "Harmonica" (because that's what he does before he kicks ass, he plays the harmonica) to take down Henry and his cohorts. It's an epic tale and I never once thought it was too long. I give credit to Leone for the pace and finding the right amount of tension in each and every scene. It's an amazing work of art, too. Apparently, Leone wanted to make this movie to pay homage to all the American westerns and it was not well received by the critics, nor the public when it came out. Only after several years was it considered a masterpiece.
Probably the best part about the movie is Harmonica's storyline. You don't know what the hell is driving him to get payback, but you want to know. And it pays off in the end - it's completely satisfying and brilliant from start to finish. There may not be a whole lot of action - but the tension and quieter moments in between is what makes this movie great.
Rating: Own It!