My first impression of DUCK, YOU SUCKER(aka Fistful of Dynamite)was something like “pretty fun movie.” A big admirer of Leone, I’d wanted to see it for a long time. But I was underwhelmed by its flaws and quickly realized why it’s the least remembered and celebrated of his films, at least in the US. Still, I liked it enough, and there was no mistaking the unique and distinctive sensibility and style.
Problems with the DUCK, YOU SUCKER are many. Its intentions are confused, pandering to audience expectations yet striving to be artistically and even morally meaningful. It opens with a quotation of Chairman Mao, and one might expect a political tract along the lines of BATTLE OF ALGIERS or BURN, but instead, it begins as a Looney Tunes version of the Wild West and Mexico. Then, it lurches into an action adventure, then expands into an historical epic, then reverts back to farce, then rhapsodizes into lyrical romanticism, and finally ends as tragedy. In the simplest terms, the movie is a mess, a massive over-packed vehicle rumbling along on a flat tire. In my first viewing, I found just enough inspired Leone-isms, action, laughter, and amusing grotesqueries to come away with a more or less positive impression. It also helped that the film had gained a cult status in certain circles as a ‘neglected masterpiece’.