Just watched this last night thanks to its recent addition to the Netflix library and I must say I was impressed. I can see why there is the constant comparison between this and “Companeros” as Nero plays essentially the same character in both films and the plots are very similar. But what really makes this stand out as opposed to “Companeros” was the combination of Musante and Palance.
In “Companeros,” Palance’s role – although very entertaining – was just too weird for my tastes. A one-armed, pot-smoking, hawk-wielding villain is just over the top and the extreme nature of the character compared to Palance’s other roles worked negatively in my opinion. I’m all for actors going outside their comfort zones, but here it was just too much of a jump. In “The Mercenary” he is right at home in his classic, menacing role that we’re all familiar with. I also prefer Musante to Milan, as I felt his role was more believable and likeable.
The showdown and the score are the icing on the cake though. No great western can end without a classic showdown and I found this element was lacking considerably in “Companeros”. Not to mention “L’Arena” is some of Morricone’s best. But whichever you prefer, they’re both two great films in their own right.