The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Movie: Directed by Sergio Leone.

Inciting Event: The bounty hunter “Blondie” rescues the Mexican criminal Tuco from hanging, by shooting the hangman’s noose—a scheme the two have worked many times, in order to continue collecting the reward on Tuco’s head. The “bad” guy Angel Eyes is in town, looking for information about the whereabouts of a soldier named Bill Carson, who buried $200,000 in gold. He witnesses Blondie and Tuco’s stunt before leaving.

This really isn’t an event that incites the main conflict. The first third of the movie focuses on Tuco and Blondie’s relationship—with Blondie deciding Tuco isn’t a worthwhile partner anymore and abandoning him in the desert. Angel Eyes’s pursuit of the gold is only a background thread that doesn’t affect Tuco and Blondie at all.

However, this is the turning point halfway through the First Act, which brings all the characters together, however briefly.

First Plot Point: Tuco, having survived the desert and vowed revenge against Blondie, tracks him down and tries to hang him—only to have a sudden barrage by the Union Army interfere and briefly save Blondie. Tuco finds him again and herds him through the desert, denying him any water.

Again, this isn’t an obvious First Plot Point, since it has nothing to do with the gold conflict and seems only a continuation of Tuco and Blondie’s already existing strange and cantankerous relationship. But, once again, it turns the plot and moves the characters out of the Normal World into the lengthy desert scene.

First Pinch Point: Finally, Tuco (the protagonist) encounters the gold conflict. He discovers a runaway carriage of dying Confederate soldiers. One of them is Bill Carson, who attempts to gain water by telling Tuco about the cemetery in which he buried the gold. Tuco goes to fetch water, but Carson has died by the time he returns, having told a dying Blondie the name of the grave. Now suddenly desperate to save Blondie, Tuco takes him to a monastery hospital.

Midpoint: We get a nice Moment of Truth in which Tuco’s past and his relationship with his monk brother are briefly revealed. Then he and Blondie—disguised as Confederates—leave the monastery in search of the gold—only to be captured by Yankees and sent to a prison run by Angel Eyes.

Second Pinch Point: After Tuco identifies himself in roll call as Bill Carson, Angel Eyes beats the whereabouts of the cemetery out of him, sends him away to be hanged, and partners with Blondie.

Third Plot Point: After shooting up Angel Eyes’s gang, Blondie and Tuco reunite and start after the gold, only to be captured by Yankees once again. In the face of a drunken captain’s despair over having to waste hundreds of lives to protect a bridge (and because their gold is on the other side of the bridge), Blondie and Tuco decide to blow the bridge for the captain.

Again, this is not a classic narrative Third Plot Point. We get a proximity of a low moment (mostly conveyed in the score) and death is represented by the dying captain, but the event itself is but a blip on the radar for both Blondie and Tuco.

One could argue that it shows character development on Blondie’s part, as he finally starts showing some of the supposed “good” elements of his character. But since there’s little other evidence of intent for a character arc, it ends up feeling pretty incidental.

Climax: Tuco, Angel Eyes, and Blondie converge on the gold’s grave. Blondie initiates a Mexican standoff in which Angel Eyes is killed. He then takes half the gold and rides away, leaving Tuco with a noose around his neck and balanced on a headstone.

Climactic Moment: Blondie once again shoots the rope, saving Tuco from hanging and leaving him with half the money.

Resolution: There isn’t much resolution to speak of. Blondie rides away with Tuco cursing him, harking back to their relationship at the beginning of the movie.

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