Film / A Fistful of Dollars

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"When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man."
Ramón Rojo

A Fistful of Dollars is the 1964 Italian (and originally unauthorized) remake of the Japanese film Yojimbo (Which itself was inspired by the novel Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett) It's the first in what's known as The Dollars Trilogy by Western fans, and was followed by For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Man With No Name (played by Clint Eastwood and called "Joe" by the coffin maker) wanders into a small poverty-stricken town on the Mexican border dominated by two feuding crime gangs, the Rojos and the Baxters, and he decides to play the clans against each other, ostensibly so that he can profit from their conflict. The opportunity arises in the form of a Mexican shipment of gold passing through the town. However, his sympathies for Marisol, a hostage of the Rojos gang, leads to a change in plans with near-fatal consequences for the Man With No Name.

The gunfight at the end is the most famous part of the film. Back to the Future Part III directly homages it, among other Shout Outs to this movie.

This Spaghetti Western provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The Baxters. Unlike the Rojo Brothers, they are much more affable and less brutal in nature.
  • Alliterative Name: Ramon Rojo.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Which, by the way, calls the film "Fistful of Dollars" - no "A".
  • Anti-Hero: Joe is ruthless and unabashedly seeks money, but he has a soft spot for Silvanito and the family he encounters.
  • Arc Words: "When you shoot to kill, aim for the heart." Ramon takes his mantra a little too seriously.
  • Asshole Victim: Let's just say no one but the Baxters will miss those shit disturbers who intercept and assault Joe at the start of the film when he gets his revenge and guns down a fourth Baxter just for hanging around where he confronts them. The Rojos, for their part, are practically full of them—Chico especially won't be missed when he's crushed to death, considering he took a lot of glee in shooting at a kid and beating up his father right in front of him in the very first scene.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Essentially what defines Ramon's over-reliance to heartbound kill shots with his rifle. Sure, he could just end Joe then and there, but if it's not as stylish as a shot to the heart, why bother?.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ramon. He is extremely obsessed with a woman, is widely paranoid, and tortures and kills in cold blood. He is a dangerous psychopath and many a massacre brings an insane Slasher Smile to his face.
  • Badass Beard: Joe. Notable in Joe's case as traditional Western heroes up to this point tended to be clean-shaven.
  • Badass Cape: Joe's poncho, which is an iconic part of his character.
  • Badass Grandpa: Silvanito.
  • Badass Mustache: Ramon.
  • Bandito: The Rojos are banditos-turned-bootleggers, who sell alcohol on both sides of the border, and have an ugly rivalry with the Baxters, a family of white-collar American gunrunners. While two of the brothers are absolutely stereotypical, Ramon (also Gian Maria Valonte) subverts it somewhat by being totally evil, but very bright.
  • Bang Bang BANG: When "Joe" is recovering from his beating, he does some pistol practice. In a modestly sized room, and every other shot seems to be a PEEYOW! ricochet.
  • Berserk Button: You can laugh at him and otherwise abuse him all you want, but Joe will end you if you dare laugh at his mule. And Heaven help you if you happen to be in the area when he catches up with anyone who makes that mistake, as that fourth Baxter learned the hard way.
  • Big Bad: Ramon.
  • Black and Grey Morality: To begin with, The Man With No Name is only interested in driving the Rojos and Baxters into open warfare for the Dollars of the title. Subverted when TMWNN gets Marisol and family away from the Rojos; not only does he gain nothing from this, it very nearly gets him killed.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: Joe towards Ramon, though it's clearly a display of bravado rather than mercy (and the gun was empty anyway).
  • Bloodless Carnage: Compare the machine-gun massacre scene in this movie with the final shootout of The Wild Bunch.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Ramon, when Joe finally gets to shoot him.
  • Blood Knight: Ramon.
  • Boxed Crook: A very unusual example of Executive Meddling. Joe has no clear no motive to go to the town and get involved in the feud. This made TV network executives nervous, so when the film aired on TV, a prologue was filmed: the MWNN is released from prison to restore order to the town. This scene was shot without the permission of Sergio Leone, and without Eastwood's participation. Harry Dean Stanton plays the Prison Governor.
  • Bridal Carry: Joe does this to Marisol after he accidentally knocks her out.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Joe fashions one out of scrap metal before the film's climax, giving him a chance against Ramon and his rifle.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Ramon's ability to make perfect heartshots to a suit of armour. His rifle's bullets don't penetrate it and also cannot penetrate Joe's boiler plate.
  • The Chessmaster: Joe. He instigates conflict between the gangs while taking pay from both sides.
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: Ramon uses a cigar to light the fuse on the dynamite that blows up the wall around the Baxter house.
  • Coffin Contraband: Joe uses this tactic to escape from San Miguel without the Rojos noticing—specifically, he is the contraband. He stops only to watch the Rojos utterly annihilate the Baxters in their search for him.
  • Cold Sniper: Ramon.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Joe leaves the Rojos because he overhears them plotting to kill him when the job is finished, to avoid paying him.
  • Crippling the Competition: The bad guys stomp on Joe's hands while beating him. Except they stomped on the wrong hand.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right
    Joe: Crazy bellringer was right. There's money to be made in a place like this.
  • Damsel in Distress: Marisol has to be rescued by Joe and re-united with her husband Julio and son Jesus.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It's a movie starring Clint Eastwood, so take a guess...
  • Determinator: After finding out Joe was responsible for getting Marisol and her family out of the town, Ramon has Joe beaten to a bloody pulp. Yet he was still able to not only make it out of the room he was locked into alive, but also was able to take a few more henchmen down.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ramon is a master at it:
    • The most visible example is making Marisol his whore just because he thinks her husband, Julián, owes him on account of a past gambling incident. As a matter of fact, he is determined to make life as hellishly difficult for Julián and his family as possible, with as much manpower as possible, over that gambling dispute. Talk about a fistful for an eye...
    • More generally, woe betide anyone who befriends one of his enemies, as Silvanito found out the hard way ("And that's for being his friend!").
  • Divide and Conquer: Joe's basic strategy.
  • The Dragon: Esteban.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Ramon is this to his elder brother Miguel. Miguel is the Don of the family, but Ramon is a much more dangerous fighter, and is the true power of the family.
  • The Dreaded: Ramon.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The Rojos gang disguise themselves as US soldiers to stage an ambush on the Mexican troops.
  • The Drifter: The classic Western example.
  • Dub Name Change: In the original Italian, Don Miguel was known as Don Benito.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Man With No Name deliberately starts this between The Baxters and The Rojos.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Don Miguel looks shocked when Esteban shoots Consuela. Heck, even Ramon is a little shocked.
  • Evil Genius: Ramon. He's the only one of the villains who has a clue about Joe, and seems to be the Rojos' planner as well.
  • Evil Laugh: Many of the Rojos let out a few when they massacre the Baxters. Those who don't have a Slasher Smile at the very least.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mrs. Baxter is the real brains in her family.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Rojos vs The Baxter, though the Baxters are more corrupt than evil.
  • Expy: The entire cast of the film are based off of the characters from Yojimbo. The only character from Yojimbo with no clear counterpart in A Fistful of Dollars is Inokichi.
  • False Flag Operation: The Rojos pretend to be American soldiers to steal the gold shipment from the Mexican Army. They've already killed the Americans and position the bodies to make it look like they killed each other.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ramon acts friendly, but is rotten to the core..
  • The Family That Slays Together: The Rojo brothers and the Baxters are both family gangs.
  • Feuding Families: The Baxters and the Rojos, though it's The Man With No Name's manipulations that brings the feud to a boil.
  • A Fistful of Rehashes: The Trope Namer, and itself a Western rehash of Yojimbo, as mentioned below.
  • Filming For Easy Dubbing: The opening for American television made the whole thing more suitable for little children without having Clint Eastwood at their disposal. It looks kind of ridiculous.
  • Five-Bad Band: The Rojos:
    • Big Bad: Don Miguel, the eldest of the Rojo brothers and technically in charge.
    • Dragon-in-Chief/Evil Genius: Ramon Rojo, the most capable and intelligent. Essentially the reason why the Rojos are so dangerous.
    • The Dragon: Esteban, who is a Rojo brother but subordinate to Ramon.
    • The Brute: Chico, the resident Giant Mook, who typically guards the compound whenever the Rojo brothers are out on "business."
    • The Dark Chick: Rubio, Ramon's Mook Lieutenant, who serves as a golf caddy for Ramon (whenever Ramon's not using his rifle, Rubio's holding it). There's a whole video on Youtube showing Ramon shouting for Rubio.
  • Foreign Remake: Again, of Yojimbo. The writers didn't credit Kurosawa at first, and as a result he had to sue them. He wound up being awarded the East Asian distribution rights for Fistful — which wound up making him more money than most of his own movies.
  • For the Evulz: This is the only reason in Ramon. He is just an inhuman bastard who enjoys killing and robbing.
  • Gang of Hats: The Mexican, partying Rojos and the European, dignified Baxters.
  • Gatling Good: The Rojos steal some gold from the Mexican army, largely thanks to being able to mow down about 100 soldiers with an old time Gatling Gun.
  • Giant Mook: Chico
  • Giggling Villain: Esteban whenever someone is being tortured.
  • Guile Hero: The Man depends as much on his cunning as his phenomenal skill as a pistolero, spending most of the first half of the movie playing both gangs against each other expertly.
  • Guilt by Association Gag: An example that isn't Played for Laughs. "I saw the whole thing; you killed all four of them." Uh, Sheriff Baxter, wasn't the grand total number of Baxters mocking Joe's mule three? Lampshaded by Joe himself as he leaves the area:
    My mistake. Four coffins.
  • The Gunslinger: If you have to ask, you've never seen the film (or any other Clint Eastwood western).
  • The Heavy: Ramon
  • Hollywood Healing: Not as bad as Yojimbo, as Clint Eastwood's character does take some time to recover from his injuries.
  • Hurting Hero: Joe is brutally beaten by the Rojos.
  • Improvised Armour: The metal chest piece.
  • Ironic Echo: While the nameless Stranger is comparing weapons with Ramon, Ramon praises his rifle, to which the Stranger replies that he'd prefer his .45. Ramon replies, "When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol will be a dead man. That's an old Mexican Proverb...and it's true." Later on during the final showdown, the Stranger repeats those words to Ramon, and says "Let's see if that's true." Of course, the words don't hold up, and Ramon is killed.
  • Irony: At the start of the film, Joe is giving Piripero most of his business. Unfortunately for Piripero, Joe's cleared out most of his customers by the end of the film. Though, the bodies pile up at a fast enough rate at one point that they just don't bother with coffins anyway.
  • I Warned You: When suggesting the "brilliant" idea of shooting Joe in the back for that first hundred, Esteban is told outright, "Just shoot him in the back, and it's all settled, eh? Well, what if your gun twitches just a little?" Joe wasn't the one to kill him at the end, but Esteban tries for that back shot, his shotgun twitches in the windowsill just a little, and he gets blown away for his troubles, as foretold.
  • Jerkass:
    • Ramon and Esteban Rojo, for the Rojos.
    • On the Baxters' side, three of their thugs casually make fun of Joe and fire at his mule's feet almost as soon as he rides into town.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joe, in his treatment of everyone who's not a Rojo or Baxter.
  • Kick the Dog: Ramon, when he massacred a Mexican army unit in his first appearance and when he brutally tortures Silvanito.
  • "Kick Me" Prank: At the start of the movie when Joe rides into town he passes a man riding out with a "Adios amigos" sign on his back.
  • Knight Errant: Joe, in his treatment of Marisol.
  • Leitmotif: Joe is accompanied by a swift descending scale on a recorder whenever he does something impressive/we see his face/he happens to blink.
  • Mob War: Engineered by The Man, of course.
  • Mohs Scale of Violence Hardness: It rates a 5, primarily due to the brutality of the acts of violence, although there is a fair amount of blood. A thug is impaled by a thrown machete (some blood), a couple of goons are smashed by a giant barrel rolling towards them (with its bloody aftermath briefly shown), and Joe/The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) is cruelly beaten by the bad guys.
  • Mondegreen: You think the backup singers are chanting "We can win"? Sounds fitting, but they're singing "With the wind!", because Ennio Morricone sampled his instrumentation of Woody Guthrie's "Pastures of Plenty" for the soundtrack.
  • Mr. Smith: The protagonist is actually called 'Joe' in the script, but as only Piripero the undertaker gives him that name, as in "average Joe", Clint Eastwood instead became The Man With No Name.
  • Mugged for Disguise: A US Cavalry company are murdered and their uniforms stolen to allow Ramon and his men to stage an ambush on the Mexican troops.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Ramon sets up two mass murders within several days rather than try more subtle methods or be content to accept an enemy's surrender.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: For much of the movie, the Man With No Name is only out to make some quick cash, and while he's doing that he's all but invincible in fights and plays all the other characters for suckers. It's only when he tries to do something nice by helping Marisol and her family escape that the bad guys get wise to him ...
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Joe receives one from Chico, Rubio, and Esteban after Marisol escapes.
  • No Name Given: The coffinmaker refers to him as Joe. Might as well.
  • Noodle Incident: Joe mentions that using corpses as decoys has helped him out of a situation more than once, and that he once knew someone like Marisol and there was no one to help.
  • Not So Above It All: Don Miguel, who is typically the Only Sane Man of the Rojos, is seen laughing while they massacre the Baxters, though he doesn't kill any of them.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ramon's reaction every time Joe gets up from his heart shots.
  • One Bullet Left: Joe has one bullet left in his six-shooter, while Ramon has one bullet in a rifle. Joe might have been lucky, but considering how badass he is, he was probably just that good. The point was that both of them have one bullet, but they have to load their weapons of choice first. And Clint's six shooter is faster to load than Ramon's rifle.
  • Only in It for the Money: Joe. In his words: "That crazy bellringer was right. There's money to be made in a place like this." Though, he does offer a good amount of his earnings to the family he rescues from the hands of the Rojos.
  • Only Sane Man: Silvanito, the bartender, who at first reluctantly befriends Joe.
  • Pet the Dog: The protagonist saves a family caught in between the troubles of the two Gang of Hats, making him seem less amoral. The family is so damn thankful, Joe practically has to shoo them in order for them to leave. And with good reason: dire consequences would befall both if they don't.
  • Pocket Protector: The Man with No Name hides a metal plate under his poncho before the final showdown. In that fight, he deliberately goads Ramon to aim at his chest, which is the only part of his body that is armored.
  • Power Trio: The Rojo Bros.
    • Ego: Ramon, who is Ax-Crazy but calculating.
    • Superego: Don Miguel, who is the most reasonable of the three.
    • Id: Esteban, the most impulsive of the three brothers.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: The local undertaker looks the protagonist over before leaving. Another character comments that the one hard look is all that the coffinmaker needs, because there has been so much business.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: After verifying that John Baxter wasn't kidding when he surrendered, Ramon tells him to take up his surrender terms with his wife and says, "Maybe she won't be too happy," before shooting him.
  • Prisoner Exchange: Marisol is exchanged for one of the Baxters.
  • Railing Kill:
    • Ramon kills a Baxter this way.
    • Esteban dies this way when Silvanito shoots him in the bar balcony.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Yojimbo WITH COWBOYS! Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Ennio Morricone sampled the music from his cover of Woody Guthrie's song, "Pastures of Plenty", performed by Peter Tevis, for the soundtrack.
  • Revenge Before Reason: At the end of the movie, Joe has killed all of Ramon's associates, tricked him into using up all the bullets in his rifle, and shot the rifle out of his hands for good measure. Instead of just shooting the defenseless Ramon, however, he empties his own gun and throws it on the ground, just so he and Ramon can have a who-can-pick-up-their-gun-reload-it-and-shoot-the-other-guy-first contest just to further humiliate him.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Ramon attempts to subvert this in the page quote. It doesn't go well. He is trying it with Clint after all... which is usually a bad idea. The movie really plays with the trope, though. Joe doesn't win the shootout because his revolver is inherently better than Ramon's rifle. He wins because he utilises his weapon's strengths to exploit the weaknesses of Ramon's.
  • Sadist: Ramon and Esteban Rojo.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Clint Eastwood's going to shoot the guy above you. Or maybe he's just preparing to shoot you.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Combined with Overly Narrow Superlative. The poster proclaims "A Fistful of Dollars is the first motion picture of its kind. It won't be the last!" Especially ironic since it was a remake of Yojimbo.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In a musical sense. Quite a few of the musical cues (that don't use mariachi trumpets) sound straight out of a samurai movie—seemingly a nod to the film's inspiration.
    • According to the commentary on the DVD, the opening was this to James Bond
  • Shoot the Rope: Joe does this for Silvanito, who was strung up by his hands.
  • Showdown at High Noon: Played with: not one is the classic one on one facedown.
  • Siblings in Crime: The Rojo brothers.
  • The Slow Walk: Eastwood's final showdown with the Rojos.
  • Smoking Is Cool
  • The Sociopath: Ramon and Esteban Rojo.
  • South of the Border: Though some action involves American soldiers as well.
  • Spaghetti Western: the Trope Codifier.
  • Squashed Flat: Chico is killed when Joe rolls a massive barrel on top of him. He's not quite flat, but he's quite dead.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: As noted above, in the opening credits the title is simply Fistful of Dollars.
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Joe takes out Chico and another Rojo by rolling a large barrel at them.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: After the shoot-out in the little house, Joe is wrecking the place with a machete. Marisol sees a not-quite-dead bad guy reaching for a gun and shouts a warning. Joe spins around and hurls the machete at him, neatly impaling him.
  • Token Good Teammate: Don Miguel seems more like Reasonable Authority Figure than the Ax-Crazy Ramon and Giggling Villain Esteban. Doesn't stop Joe from killing him too (he's to the far right in the final standoff.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Despite Ramon's brutal attempts to extract information from both Joe and Silvanito, he ends up with exactly zero in the way of useful information.
  • Undertaker: The only character who earns an honest living is the the undertaker. And he's pretty cheery too, until Clint's character wipes out the remaining gang members. (Upset about running out of business?)
    Joe: Get three coffins ready.
    (later, after gunning down four men)
    Joe: My mistake. Four coffins...
  • Unorthodox Reload: Ramón Rojo casually does the half-cycle spin at the beginning of the final showdown.
  • Weapon of Choice: Revolvers vs. Rifles is actually a plot point.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Completely accidental, but you get the feeling Joe was more annoyed at hitting a bystander than punching out a lady.
    • Esteban guns down Mrs. Baxter without a second thought.
    • There's also the quite shocking moment where The Man With No Name punches a woman in the face, thinking she was a man trying to kill him. Good luck finding a movie these days that will show the hero doing that even by accident.
  • Would Hurt a Child: To demonstrate how horrible that is Ramon, he has the children of the kidnapped mother (a 6 years old kid) threatened to death if she is not given.

Alternative Title(s): A Fistful Of Dollars

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/AFistfulOfDollars