The Big Gundown (Italy 1967)

Rating: **
Alternate Title:Le Resa Dei Conti
Review Date: 6/6/16
Music: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian

John Corbett (Lee Van Cleef) is a self-righteous gunslinger who enjoys bringing criminals to justice. He's a feared and respected man with a strong moral code, and a wealthy businessman named Brokston wants to exploit his reputation and popularity by grooming him for a political office. All Corbett has to do is capture a Mexican peasant named Cuchillo Sanchez (Tomas Milian), who is accused of raping and killing a twelve year old girl. The violently unrelenting Corbett chases Sanchez all the way to Mexico, while Sanchez outwits him at every turn. As he learns more about his quarry, Corbett finally starts figuring out what's really going on, which builds up to a tense duel involving knives, pistols, and rifles.

It's a gorgeous film, and the cinematography and vistas are stunning. Corbett is a rough and rugged sociopath who is driven by a perverse and unhealthy obsession with justice, and Lee Van Cleef plays him to perfection. He's a loose cannon who constantly hurts innocent people in the name of justice, and often raves like a violent madman. "Don't you understand?!? He's a criminal and I have to catch him!" For him, the end justifies the means, no matter how cruel and unjust they may be. Sanchez, on the other hand, is a fast-talking and quick-thinking buffoon, who survives on luck, cleverness, and quick reflexes. It's a tough and physically demanding role, and Tomas Milian does a remarkable job as the dirty and generally unlikable Sanchez. The antagonistic relationship between Corbett and Sanchez is the cornerstone of the film, and leaves you constantly questioning who's in the right.

It's a surprisingly bloody and sadistic film for the time, with some impressively dangerous looking stunt work. The scene with Sanchez and the bull is particularly harrowing, and makes you wonder how many injuries occurred during filming. Ennio Morricone's soundtrack is pleasant, but not especially memorable. As was common at the time, the opening credits are some of the worst I've ever seen, and they make you want to turn off the movie before it's even begun. Ultimately, the film is just one extended chase between two tough and determined men. The plot is exceedingly simplistic and the execution isn't overly ambitious, but it's an enjoyable romp that successfully capitalizes on the strengths of its two leads.