A new, hard-boiled western series coming to AMC+ on Thursday takes multiple cues from the spaghetti westerns of Clint Eastwood and director Sergio Leone.
AMC+’s publicity materials for the show -- titled “That Dirty Black Bag” -- even emphasize the series’ connection to the Leone films.
However, an observer with even a passing familiarity with “A Fistful of Dollars” and its progeny will instantly make the mental connection to those films without ever reading a single press release.
The Leone influence is apparent practically from the get-go. The show adopts Leone’s visual take on the 19th-century American West and his customary plotline featuring Eastwood as a nomad who is handy with a six-gun.
“That Dirty Black Bag” was created, written and produced by Italians led by Mauro Aragoni who are all evidently steeped in the Leone tradition.
Like in the Leone films, the West in “That Dirty Black Bag” is a desolate place. The wind-borne dust blowing off the surface of the dried earth settles on buildings, people and animals alike.
The residents of the fictional town in “That Dirty Black Bag” are people who live outside the law, even those who are supposed to be the local lawmen.
Into this lawless town caked with prairie dust comes a man named Red Bill. He is a bounty hunter who finds that this particular section of the West is abundant in the kinds of fugitives he intends to capture either dead or alive (usually the former).
If he is known at all in these parts, it is for his reputation for killing any fugitive who tries to prevent his capture. Then, Red Bill severs their heads with a hand axe and puts them in a black bag as proof that he found them.
For this he gives a practical reason: Heads are a much lighter burden for a man on horseback than entire bodies.
This multipart series takes place over the span of eight days in which Red Bill (played by Douglas Booth, pictured above) -- who is this show’s Clint Eastwood character -- will face off against the local, corrupt and very sadistic sheriff (Dominic Cooper).
The identity of the black bag cited in the title is uncertain. Black bags that turn up in just the first episode include Red Bill’s bag of heads and a series of other bags (including suitcases) containing either cash or gold.
Other than Bill’s head bag, the other pieces of black dusty luggage tend to change hands rather regularly. Basically, someone is usually stealing one, hiding it, and then having it stolen by somebody else.
“That Dirty Black Bag” also has a storyline common to movies and TV shows -- the age-old clash between farmers and others who covet their land.
In most movies and TV shows, these “others” are usually ranchers who wish to obtain the farmers’ land to provide their herds with more acreage on which to graze.
In this show, the villain of this storyline is a wealthy man with mining interests who believes a spectacular vein of gold sits waiting to be exploited beneath the fields of a recalcitrant farmer.
If this show and its various plots and Sergio Leone-like touches make it sound like it is purely derivative, then fear not.
When the first episode was over, it was so entertaining that I was eager immediately to watch the second one. But alas, duty called and a TV Blog had to be written.
“That Dirty Black Bag” starts streaming on Thursday (March 10) on AMC+.