For A Few Lousy Dollars

Director:Micheal Bafaro                        
Benjamin Ratner, John Cassini, Frank Cassini

"Lousy" isn't quite strong enough to describe this movie. "Rip-off" is closer, but still lacks the venom needed to rip this sorry movie to shreds. For A Few Lousy Dollars is one the gutless, most pathetic attempts in cinema to jump on someone else's bandwagon. Though it would be more appropriate to say the people who made this movie jumped onto Quentin Tarantino's bandwagon after he made his Pulp Fiction journey, shoved him off, and then claimed that they did everything themselves. Just look at the front of the video box; it shows several scruffy-looking men, standing shoulder to shoulder on a city street. Shades of Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. A blurb on the cover then has the audacity to scream, "More pulp than Pulp Fiction" (whatever that means.) They may have know the lyrics, but they didn't know the music. This movie is all attitude, with no substance and no originality.

It takes a long time to figure out just what the hell is going on in this movie. That's because the events of the movie are shown out of order, like they were in Pulp Fiction. Though Pulp Fiction always had some kind of understandable story in each event - we might not have know everything to start with, but we had an idea of who the characters were, and their relationship to any previously introduced characters or events. For A Few Lousy Dollars starts off with some unidentified man pulling into a gas station, and going to the bathroom, hissing to himself that he "f**ked up". Who is he? What did he do? We don't know; the scene continues with him subsequently shooting some people who threaten to rob him, then driving off with a young woman who was watching. We don't find out who he is until later in the movie, and what he did to upset himself so much even later. In fact, there's no particular reason why this scene is here in the first place - we learn later it's just a minor incident linking two more important (relatively speaking) incidents together.

This kind of scene displacement is typical of the movie's incompetence. The narrative of this movie is completely jumbled up. There's no rhyme or reason (or even signs of artistic experimentation) for this scrambled story-telling. It's as if the movie scenes were edited together by random. One lengthy scene is even repeated in its entirety. The only possible reason the movie may have been cut in this fashion is that, after figuring out the story and proper placement of the events, there is pretty much no story. Bullets fly, the "f" word is uttered possibly more times than in Casino, and hit men stand over a street discussing art ("Art is an important part of society, my friend. It's a reflection of our thoughts, visions, and self-interpretation."), while spitting off the roof every five or so seconds. But hardly anything happens, if you know what I mean.

Instead, the movie seems to feel that a whole movie can be made with "hip" and "hilarious" dialogue. One man, captured and at gunpoint from the hit men, gets into an argument about Melrose with the hit man who looks eerily like Vincent Vega. Earlier, the hit man got into another argument about The Love Boat with one of his partners, insisting, "That chick Julie was actually pretty hot," and they argued about the show for several painful minutes. And Melrose? "Amanda is a fine actress!" Though the scene should be concerned with the unlucky man facing possible death, the movie stops cold here so the characters can argue about Melrose for several minutes. In another scene, one of the characters, stuck in an unenviable position, thinks, "How did I get into this?", and there's a flashback. Instead of getting a scene that explains how he did indeed get involved, it cuts to a scene where the character is at a table with his friends, and one of them talks about s**t-tasting caramels, and his girlfriend's s**t-tasting lasagna. They then walk out of the house, and the scene pretty much ends here, going back to the man in his unlucky situation. Seriously. It goes without saying that the writing of this movie is incredibly bad. The movie's idea of hilarious humor is to have the man and his friends start pulling off a daytime robbery in a pizzeria, and then one of the characters suddenly exclaims he has to go to the bathroom. ("Why didn't you go before?!?")

What was Bafaro thinking of? I have absolutely no idea, except that whatever he was attempting to do, he did it badly. The movie is photographed surprisingly well, with everything looking crisp and very colorful. But Bafaro keeps the camera so close to the action and the characters, it's often difficult to know just where we are, and what is going on. He tries using visual and editing techniques to make things look cool, but it backfires. One scene dissolves from one point of time to a jump in time several seconds later, over and over. Since nothing is really happening in this scene, it comes off looking more foolish than what you'd think. Aside from the photography, Bafaro seems unable to work with a low budget; in one scene, we hear the sound of approaching police cars, and shouts from police, but we don't actually see them. A sequence at a racetrack is accomplished by us hearing the hoofs of running horses and the shouts of the audience and the announcer. The scene actually takes place outside the racetrack, where we see a painted sign on a building (looking nothing like a race stadium) reading "RACETRACK", pointing up a staircase.

I didn't just get annoyed with this movie, as I usually do with a movie that's bad. I actually got angry. For A Few Lousy Dollars is an utter waste of time, both for the viewers, and for the people who made it. I don't see what the point was for going to all of this effort for something that has no originality and no coherence. If you are going to rip someone off, you should at least show some faith in yourself, and put a few new ideas into it, or at least some fresh new spins. Previously, I used to think that the backlash against the kind of movies the works of Quentin Tarantino inspired was wildly excessive; after seeing this movie, now I'm not so sure.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Evel Knievel, Phoenix, Route 9