It’s time for more of the gritty Old West with Sergio Leone!
Screenplay By: Luciano Vincenzoni
Directed By: Sergio Leone
Among all the Sergio Leone films I have seen, Giù La Testa is the oddball. I have noted a progression in his technique from a skilled director in Per Un Pugno Di Dollari to a master at his craft in C’era Una Volta Il West. That progression seems to have changed to regression with Giù La Testa. It comes across in every way as a step back for the Italian director, and one that he could have easily avoided. It’s also odd in how it is a much more comedic movie that any of Leone’s other offerings have been. I happened to like the comedic flare, but still, quite the oddball.
I immediately found Giù La Testa to be unnecessarily excessive. In direction it is excessive in ways that hurt the flow of the film. The extreme close-ups that Leone goes for on the train car don’t serve any purpose other than Leone saying, “Hey, look what I can do.” This carries over into the way that visual imagery is handled, because I found many of the visual cues to be far too obvious and easy. Juan finding an IRA flag and a newspaper clipping detailing John’s back story were just too obvious and excessive in giving us information. Based on his speech and his propensity for bombs, it was easy to glean what John’s history was.
The history of John takes us to the most detrimental aspect of Giù La Testa, the pacing. The flashbacks aren’t really needed and mess with the pacing of a movie that is already overly long and drawn out. It’s fitting that a movie that felt off ends with a flashback that feels very off.
Taking into account all of the above, I did like the story of Giù La Testa. The mixing of the large revolution tale with the smaller intimate tale of John and Juan was handled really well and provided good contrast as well as fine comedic moments. Leone’s usual grit and amoral characters were on display, that is his specialty after all, but as I said earlier, Giù La Testa was very much a comedy and one that I found to be funny. The action scenes were shot very well, but that is an aspect of film that I don’t think Leone can ever falter at. I was most surprised by the score of Ennio Morricone. I was not a fan of it at all when the film began, but as the film progressed the score grew on me and while not up there with his other Leone scores it ended up being an asset to the film.
It may be a regression for Leone, but Giù La Testa is still a good, enjoyable movie. It’s a bit too long and drawn out, but the characters are interesting and the West is gritty like how only Leone can make it gritty. Leone fans definitely need check out Giù La Testa, and other people should check it out as well, but I’d put it on the back burner behind other, earlier Leone works.