Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ace High

I quattro dell'Ave Maria; western, Italy, 1968; D: Giuseppe Colizzi, S: Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Eli Wallach, Brock Peters, Kevin McCarthy

After their adventures, where they eliminated outlaw Bill, Cat Stevens and Hutch arrive to a small town, and in a bank persuade Bill's former partner, manager Harold, to give them a substantial amount of cash to keep quiet about their ties. However, Cat and Hutch are soon robbed by Cacopoulous, a small thief. When Cat and Hutch find him in another village, he agrees to return their money if they help him track down and kill three of his former friends who, after robbing a bank, shot his horse and left him at the mercy of the locals, after which he spent 15 years in prison. Cacopoulous already killed Harold, and then eliminates also Paco. The third one is Drake, the owner of a casino full of staged bets, and thus Cat, Hutch and Cacopoulous eliminate him as well, whereas they are teamed up with an African-American circus entertainer.

The 2nd film in Giuseppe Colizzi's western trilogy, "Ace High" is arguably the funniest of the three, with some intentionally highly comical moments between Terence Hill and Bud Spencer (the sequence where Spencer's character Hutch is awkwardly posing with a pigeon in his hand for a photo - but then releases the bird, it is shot by a man shaving, and then Hutch walks towards him and slaps him as a punishment - cannot be regarded as anything but pure comic escapism) which already started to slowly conjure up the feeling that the duo should lean towards comedy, two years before their incredible "They Call Me Trinity" where they would, fully demolishing the Spaghetti-Western cliches through humor. However, despite these exceptions, this is still a 'serious' Western. The movie starts off with a direct continuation of their adventures from "God Forgives, I Don't", where hero Cat Stevens arrives to a small town, goes to the Sheriff's office and tries to collect ransom money for outlaw Bill - but only shows Bill's boots as evidence, since the bad guy died in an explosion. Colizzi uses all the tried ingredients of the genre (money/gold as a leitmotiv for greed, betrayal, revenge...) and even uses Eli Wallach who almost seems to reprise his role from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" at times, though the narrative is strained and overlong, changing directions several times, until the grand finale in the casino. Colizzi is not quite the calibre of Leone, but has a sense for stylish takes and good details at times (Cacopoulous turn with the rotating chair when Harold throws a knife at him, thereby hitting only its back, and when he rotates again, he shoots Harold with a gun), whereas his actors were more than grateful.


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