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Sunday, June 8, 2014

"A coward dies many times, the brave only once."

To what do I refer? I'm talking about the excellent movie Guns of the Magnificent Seven. Now, obviously the original is the best of the four movies, but after being let down by the "sequel", Return of the Seven", Guns more then makes up for it in my opinion. Return is basically the first movie
with different actors, done... badly. Guns tells a slightly different story and is much better for it.

Before I go to far here is the order of the movies from best to worst:
1. The Magnificent Seven
2. Guns of the Magnificent Seven
3. The Magnificent Seven Ride
4. Return of the Seven
Now of course people will say the Seven Samurai is THE best, well or course it is, it's the source material, but that's not what the topic of this post is about. So with that side track out of the way...

I'm going to assume if you are reading this you have seen the original Magnificent Seven... and if you haven't go watch it come back here and then read the rest of this post! Better yet watch Guns of the Magnificent Seven too then come back. 

Ok, you're back?

One downside that starts us off, Yul Bryner is not playing Chris Adams. This time around George Kennedy takes the helm as Chris Adams. While not as slick as Yul Bryner he did make for a great leader of the Seven. At first I thought I wouldn't like his portrayal, but I was pleasantly surprised. While I watching it I didn't see him as Chris Adams as so much as George playing another guy named Chris Adams... If that makes sense. In other words it's a good western and a good actor that stands on their own merits. If it hadn't been part of the Magnificent Seven series it would stand on its own merits as a fine movie.

One area I think that helped rive the story is that in this version the viewer actually cares about the assembled Seven, unlike Return where the viewer is left scratching their heads. I especially like a Joe Don Baker's character Slater as a ex-confederate soldier trying to make a
living in the west while maimed from his wartime service which has caused his life to spiral downwards. He doesn't have too many scenes in the movie, but I found myself wanting more of him on screen.

Monte Markham stars as Vin Tanner, err make that Keno, Chris' right-hand-man in this version of the series. I found myself liking him in this role and I think he did well rather then the ill fit of Robert Fuller as Vinn in Return. Much like the casting of Kennedy it works.

Another point on actors is James Whitmore as Levi Morgan an aging knife thrower/former outlaw who looked old even back in 1969. Most younger people will know him from his role as Brooks in the Shawshank Redemption. 

Rounding out the thoughts on the cast. In a 2 hour-ish movie it's difficult to get to the other characters but they somehow manage to do it with Cassie a black laborer-physical dynamo, Max the young Mexican (taking over the role/spot of Chico) and PJ the enigmatic clad in black gunfighter who has the least amount of screen time of all of them.

Without spoiling it too much let's say the story is a departure from the normal fair in regards the theme of the Magnificent Seven of helping innocent villagers. The assembly of the seven goes quickly as we hop from member to member without any lag in the story. The use of the Mexican federal military rather then raiding outlaws is a welcome change.Its also cool anytime a western has a Gaitling gun which the bad guys do.

In closing, as the title of the post suggests, the best line is delivered at the very end by George Kennedy in Spanish to a a very young Reni Santoni. What makes this great is that his character Max repeats in back in English (which is a twist on the way his character communicates through the movie; struggling to find the right words in English and reverting to Spanish):

  "A coward dies many times, the brave only once."

I give Guns 4 out of 5 stars and if I could, I'd give Return of the Seven zero... 

Lastly on a side note it looks like Denzel Washington is talking about joining a remake of the Magnificent Seven. Woot!

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