BrandonHabes’s review published on Letterboxd:
What the looney tunes revolution is this. A politically charged, pseudo-western about the personal cost of war that somehow feels lodged between Mickey Mouse exaggeration and grueling fascist hell. Equal halves devastating and hilarious, the tonal incoherence of the film is actually more of an asset than a bug, a way for Leone to revel in the absurdity of war by bringing two unlikely friends into the wake of its confusion and senselessness. First 30min are straight up Buñuelian, a scathing assault on the poor that ends up reversing the tables and reducing the bourgeois to a pack of wimpy, nonsensical animals.
This is an important setup for the rest of the story, a microcosm of the larger massacre and class struggle at play. Peasants have only been able to stomach the snobbery of the aristocracy for so long before heeding the clarion call of revolution, freeing their political prisoners from oppression, in turn robbing and raping society's elite.
War is hell and chasing a cause is shown to be futile. Ireland and Mexico are both caught in the whirlwind of political turmoil, with poor people being slaughtered on both fronts. Fed up with the racket at home, a fugitive Irish anarchist jumps ship from one Rebellion to a more volatile one in Mexico, using explosives like MacGyver to blow shit up and help others make progress. Like a quickly burning fuse that can't be quelled, you get the feeling that the time for diplomacy is over and the time for TNT is just beginning. Diplomatic is what the intellectual wants you to be before justice is served, but that only reinforces injustice and allows it to continue. The cure? Strike a match to that bitch and watch the world of abuse burn to the ground. Irish's counterpart, a wily Mexican bandit who doesn't care for politics but loves the prospect of gold, just wants to get rich and rob American banks. He's Trump's worst nightmare, an outlaw who makes parody of the American Dream.
Strange pairing, these two, each has their own agenda, neither one fully understands what the other is doing, yet both find themselves drawn into the crosshairs of fascism and hero worship just south of the border.
Leone demythologizes the concept of "revolution" by deglamorizing the end game of what it often means for the lower class. The people that read the books go to the people that don't read the books and say, "The time has come for change!" Sounds exciting in theory, but it's the poor people who end up making the change and dying in the process while the intellectuals wax philosophical "around their big polished tables and talk and talk and eat and eat." By all means revolt, Leone says, just know it's a farce in the end and nothing will really change. It's cynical but also perhaps accurate to the civil unrest of the times. Real change for the working class can't be done with "elegance and courtesy," as the bourgeois have always invoked. Revolution "is not a social dinner, a literary event, a drawing or an embroidery." You have to blow up the whole fucking establishment and start over again, only here the suffering of the masses continues.
The film is absurd around the edges and doesn't take itself seriously until it abruptly does, speaking volumes about the true consequences of revolution. Which is to say a revolution sounds "revolutionary" until you find your entire family and countless other friends murdered in a cave, or wasted by a firing squad. It's deeply sad, cynical shit. If the struggle against corrupt regimes ends with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and dying in the streets, was your revolution even worth it in the first place? Leone doesn't make clear what is more noble, whether standing up and dying for a lost cause or ducking out and keeping a low profile. That ambiguity ties us back to the motivations of the two lead characters. John joins a cell of Mexican insurrectionists and continues the work he did back in Ireland. He's an anarchist to the core who believes that the authority of the state must fall. Don't talk to Juan about revolution though. He know's they're just a repeating cycle of death and destruction with the poor always getting slaughtered, and the New Boss always resembling the Old Boss. Through these characters, we get a perspective that both mythologizes and demythologizes the revolution in the same breath. It's a position that leaves you galvanized and bent on wanting to fight for a cause, even if you realize not much will change. A perfectly frustrating paradox with no definitive answers.