Run Man Run Review

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The third and final western of Sergio Sollima, a sequel to the better known The Big Gundown, according to most people inferior, and at any rate without Lee Van Cleef. The link between the two movies is Tomas Milian, reprising his role as Cuchillo Sanchez, the knife-wielding Mexican peon. With its episodic style and light-hearted approach it's a rather uneasy movie, too serious to jump on the comedy train (locomoted by the Trinity movies), too jokey to sell it as a diehard spaghetti western, aimed at those who want their westerns violent and nasty. But there's more than meets the eye ...

Although less complex than Sollima's other westerns, Run Man Run is a perfect example of Sollima’s special approach to character: his movies are often about people who change - discover their true nature - under difficult circumstances (1). The Big Gundown had shown the development of Cuchillo Sanchez from a peon into a social bandit who forced Lee van Cleef's ambitious bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett to make 'a choice of classes': he must either chose sides with the poor innocent guy, or with the corrupt rich people who could help him with his political career. In Run Man Run it is Cuchillo Sanchez, the running man, who is changed for the better by the circumstances and the people he encounters. In the course of the movie, Cuchillo changes from a vagabond and petty thief into a future revolutionary hero.

The film opens with a burlesque scene of Cuchillo stealing a loaf of bread and almost ending up being shot by a fire squad about to execute a revolutionary. He runs away from the spot and jumps on his horse, the bullets flying around his head. It's a great symbolic opening for this movie which has him running from one place to another for most of the time. After stealing a precious watch (a gift for his fiancée) he's thrown in jail, where he happens to share a cell with a revolutionary poet called Ramirez. The poet offers him $ 100 if Cuchillo is willing to break him out of jail and accompany him to Texas, where he has hidden a sum of $ 300.000. With the money, Ramirez wants to finance the Revolution against Diaz, but when the two men arrive in a village near the border, they are captured by the revolutionary bandit Reza. Ramirez is killed, but in his dying moments, he hands over a newspaper to Cuchillo, telling that it's a clue as to where the treasure is hidden. Cuchillo now heads for Texas, but he's not the only one: also interested in the gold, are two warring revolutionary factions, an American sheriff turned bounty hunter, two French federal agents and a Salvation Army missionary, as blond as she is beautiful. And then there's his fiancée Dolores, who desperately wants to marry him, even though he's a pig ...


The film has the look and feel of a treasure hunt movie, and yet Sollima has expressed the opinion that Run Man Run is the most politic, the most revolutionary and even most anarchic among his movies (2). In the end all characters (except for the treacherous revolutionary bandits) unite against the oppressor Diaz and are willing to give their life for freedom. Apparently Sollima saw this as a metaphor for the phase in WWII in which Italian and foreign forces formed a united front against Mussolini and his Nazi allies. Only rather late into the movie Cuchillo starts realizing what the idea of a people's revolution is all about. There's a key scene in which a fellow Mexican sacrifices himself, so that Cuchillo can go on and save the revolution („Go on, I'm not doing this for you!“). The scene is echoed in the final moments, when Cuchillo and Cassidy serve as a decoy for Dolores, who's sent the other way, transporting the money to the revolutionary leader Santillana.

Run Man Run has been criticized for being too whimsical, too episodic and too long. Milian's performance has also met with some disapproval. With his mannerisms taking over, he seems to get out of touch with the Cuchillo character from the first movie. Personally I think Run Man Run is an excellent movie; if it's not Sollima's best, it may well be his most entertaining. But it's not without flaws: there are too many characters (or groups of characters) and the script falls in a more predictable (and static) pattern once Cuchillo arrives in Texas. O'Brien is no van Cleef (but who is, except for Lee?) but he does his job quite well. Good support is given by José Torres (as the poet/revolutionary) and Nello Pazzafini (as a revolutionary bandit). Chelo Alonso and Linda Veras are of course eye candy and their catfight is a highlight. The only two characters who don't work for me, are the French guys, but Sollima obviously needed them for a couple of grim scenes.

There has been a lot of debate about the score. In a interview added as an extra to the Blue Underground disc, Sollima says it was written by Ennio Morricone, but several people have testified that he has accredited it to Bruno Nicolai on other occasions. Morricone or Nicolai, whoever wrote it, it's a great score (3).

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Director: Sergio Sollima - Cast: Tomas Milian, Donald O'Brien, Chelo Alonso, Linda Veras, John Ireland, Nello Pazzafini, Marco Guglielmi, Luciano Rossi, José Torres, Gianni Rizzo, Federico Boido - Music: Bruno Nicolai (?), Ennio Morricone (?)

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  • (1) Lee Broughton on DVD Talk
  • (2) See:,_Man,_Run!
  • (3) I'm not a composer, so I let Chris Casey speak, a far better musician than I am: "Personally, it sounds much more like Nicolai to me than it does Morricone. Listen carefully to the other scores Morricone turned in for Sollima's previous films, The Big Gundown and Face to Face. His scores for those films are filled with innovative, unusual instrumentation and arrangements. The score for Run Man Run is great, but it is pretty much typically arranged and orchestrated."

--By Scherpschutter

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