On Monday we counted down numbers 10-6, and now we’re rounding out the final five. Now we’re getting into some more familiar faces, but a few may surprise you.
#5.) The Stranger (High Plains Drifter)
Clint has played a lot of men with no names, but two in particular really stand out (The other one we’ll get to later). The Stranger is the quintessential *mysterious* man with no name, because he literally appears out of nowhere from the heat wave off in the distance. Sure, it could just be an optical illusion, but he does look mighty familiar. The people in the town of Lago can’t seem to put their finger on why he’s so recognizable, but deep down, they know exactly why… The plot of the movie aside, lets talk badassery. One of the first things dude does is walk into town, get a shave and a bath, and avoids getting shot at point-blank, by simply sinking into his bath water. His presence is seemingly supernaturally shielded from the gunfire by being obscured alone. Once the local folks find out some bandits with a vendetta against the town are coming, they ask him to help them. So what does the Stranger do? Well first, he fires the Sheriff, and makes the town midget Sheriff in his place. If you ask me, anybody who gives midgets free license to be lawmaker of a town, is sure as hell a badass guy. Because as we all know, midgets are awesome, as well as hilarious! So he and the midget Sheriff team up, drink lots of booze and hallucinate about being whipped to death in front of the entire town. Well, something like that anyway. Don’t wanna spoil it for you too much. Stranger starts requesting weirder and weirder things, eventually asking the townspeople to acquire 200 gallons of red paint. He then paints the entire town red, (literally), and renames the town “Hell”. When the bandits arrive, he attacks them with help from the towns people, and the fallout from the whole thing begins to spell things out about who this mysterious stranger is. Throughout the whole movie, you’re wondering what his motive exactly is, and after he’s played the entire town against each other, burned it to the ground, gotten laid a few times and whipped a few dudes to death, he disappears back into the heat wave, same way as he came. Bad. Ass.
#4.) Doc Holiday (Tombstone)
Doc is a badass, and not only for his poker playing skills. But his ability to drink copious amounts of booze, and still kick ass at poker. Also, he managed to constantly spout insane words of wisdom and/or nonsense. When he’s not playing poker or calling people the anti-Christ, he’s spouting off some goddamned insult that’ll zing your ass worse than Don Rickles could ever dream. Basically, while the entire movie of Tombstone is about Wyatt Earp, and the Earps (The Earps would be a great band name by the way), Doc steals the entire movie, with every line, and every second he’s on film. He’s the Western movie equivalent of a wiseguy from a gangster movie, only without the wimpiness and fake machismo.
In a movie full of bold, awesome characters, he’s a stand out because he’s the most grounded and realistic. Not many of us can imagine walking on water, screaming “NO” and shooting a bunch of bandits to death like Wyatt Earp, but all of us can imagine being a crafty card player, or smooth talking ladies man. Doc is a cavalcade of everything you’d want to be in the old west. Sure, he may eventually end up dying of Consumption, but he’ll still end up getting dressed and heading to your gunfight, and/or asking for more booze to drink. The man would never take no for an answer, and did everything on his terms, right up until he died. He also would drink, play poker, insult you, cheat you out of your money, and then insult you again after doing it.
That, is exactly why he is the #4 Western Badass of All Time.
#3.) The Man With No Name.
Of course, of course The Man had to be on this list, and some of you might be asking why he’s not at #2, or #1. That of course, will be explained when #2 and #1 come up, so until then, stop whining and listen to why The Man is awesome. First of all, we’re all familiar with Clint’s iconic close up squinting picture that we’ve all seen so many times, and while that alone is pretty cool, I’d rather go with a picture that captures Clint, not only as Leone’s Man, but as ALL the nameless characters he’s played. They all wander alone, walk lonely roads, and whatever other cliched phrases you can think of. He represents every single person in history who played a small, but ever so significant part in their time. For every one man who chose to take credit, and be heralded as some sort of hero, there are at least 100 nameless men, who deserve just as much credit. Now granted, The Man isn’t always a benevolent character, and in fact is at most times, completely morally questionable, as is the case with Good, The Bad and The Ugly. However, it’s his dual characteristics, (saving the day, then stealing the gold and running off to keep it for himself are two good examples), and complex set of moral rules, that he sets himself, which make him so interesting. Yes, that WAS just a fancy, dragged out way to say “He doesn’t take no guff and plays by his own rules!”, but it’s so true. With the Dollars trilogy, Leone perfected the Western version of the wandering, morally ambiguous Ronin, seeking only to do good for himself, or is he? The mystery behind that character is what makes him intriguing, and thus, has been copied countless times in the same fashion. It’s this copying, and subsequent response to this type of character, that leads to my #2 pick however…
#2.) Loko AKA El Tigrero
Some of you may be going, Huh? What the hell? Who is that? Let me tell you right now, there are plenty of good reasons a character you’ve probably never ever heard of in the Western genre is #2 in the list. Let’s talk about the actual character, and then we’ll get to WHY he’s on this list. First of all, he’s a ruthless bounty hunter who plays by his own rules, and those guys are ALWAYS badass . I dare you to name ONE ruthless bounty hunter who plays by his own rules that DOESN’T tickle your balls with glee. Anyhow, around the time this movie came out, there were lots of Italian westerns being made, with that iconic “One man arrives in town, kicks a lot of ass and then leaves” character, that Clint and so many others did very well. Sergio Corbucci, a famous Italian western director in his own right, grew weary of this tired character, and decided to make a film that would purposely go against many western clichés. The story is set in the winter, so it’s a snowy western. Many of the people in the story are not drunks, braggards and armed, in fact most of the town are relatively realistic people, scraping by through the harsh winter. Into the town comes Loko, who had previously captured his last bounty by shooting off the guy’s knee caps, whipped him half to death, and then dragged his body around in the snow for several hours. When he came in to town, it’s needless to say that a lot of the people were kinda scared shitless. After Loko collects a bounty on that man, leaving his wife a widow, she hires the classic “Lone Wanderer” character, who conveniently shows up in town. The whole movie is a kind of built up to these two fighting, and it revolves around the rumors of how insanely good a shot this lone wanderer is.
I think it’s kind of obvious that the Lone Wanderer character, (who is mute, and is referred to in the movie as Silence, hence the title of the movie, The Great Silence), represents EVERY western that features this character archetype, and that’s why it is such a shock, when Silence approaches the bar Loko and his cronies have held up in, and we expect him to shoot, dodge, and roll his way to victory. Instead he simply gets shot to death, quickly, violently, painfully, and in the snow. They shoot his hands, and Loko pulls out his gun, and executes him. Silence doesn’t even get a single round off before he dies.
Loko then leaves the town, and continues his way, doing whatever the hell he’s gonna do. Basically the movie, and this character, is Sergio Corbucci’s response to the westerns that Leone, and many of those who copied him made. It’s a flat out rejection of all those clichés and stereotypes that we like to see, and it is relentless in its execution(sometimes literally) of these clichés. Beyond that, Loko is in a way, his own kind of Lone Wanderer character, and the irony in this is something I’m sure Corbucci realized, but intended in the film. Loko is badass for one simple reason: He killed your favorite western. And now…
THE #1 WESTERN BADASS OF ALL TIME IS…
Yes, yes, Harmonica IS yet another lone wanderer character, and yes, it’s kind of contradictory to put him on the list after a character specifically made to contrast with this kind of character, but there are 2 reasons he’s #1.
#1. The Lone Wanderer character owns the Western Genre.
#2. Harmonica is the best Lone Wanderer. The Man With No Name is great and all, but he can’t compare to H.
Leone made a western to end all westerns. The movie opens on a typical shootout, in the great traditional western style, and ends with the completion of the train, running through the town, signifying the end of the western front. And with Harmonica, he made the badass to end them all. Originally, the opening of the movie would have had him shooting and killing all 3 characters from the Good, The Bad, And the Ugly. Harmonica knows what he wants, and isn’t willing to let anybody ruin it for him, and he’ll kill, steal, and buy what he needs to do it, all in the name of revenge. He doesn’t care about money, he doesn’t care about getting the girl, he only wants to kill the man who crossed him. He holds the ultimate grudge, right until the very end. He’ll blow you away, stick a goddamned harmonica in your mouth, and watch you keel over and die. Only then will he ride off into the sunset, as so many have. The execution, build up, and payoff of his plan, and the story behind it, make him the #1 Western badass of all time.