Perhaps the most common villain in Westerns is the gunslinger who works for hire, usually at the behest of a wealthy patron who needs to clean out some undesirables. The Wild Bunch (1969) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) represent films in which groups of hired guns work together. Italian films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) exploit the character as all sides of the conflicts are peopled by hired guns. Typically, the character is mercenary, ruthless, and efficient in his killing ability. The twist on the character comes in films about retired hired guns, films like Shane (1953) and The Shootist (1976), where the gunman tries to hang up his guns but cannot.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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