Movie Project #11: The Magnificent Seven [1960]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

The Magnificent Seven [1960]

The Magnificent Seven [1960]
Directors: John Sturges
Genre: Western/Adventure/Drama
Language: English/Spanish
Country: USA

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai represented many “firsts” for me. It was my first Japanese classic film. My first Kurosawa film. My first three hour epic. The first movie I watched that had an extended intermission halfway through. Seven Samurai turned me onto a whole new world of film, and for that I am very appreciative.

The Magnificent Seven is Hollywood’s westernization of Kurosawa’s masterpiece, and it is one of a seemingly rare breed in that is also highly regarded, though not quite up to the level of its inspiration. Opting to go the Western route, the movie is about seven American gunmen who are hired to protect a small Mexican village from evil bandits. There is plenty of action with several entertaining gunfights, but there is also a good amount of emphasis on character relationships that give the men some depth.

The seven gunmen are played by a veritable who’s who of badasses from the time period — Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn and Horst Buchholz. Brynner is the leader of the group as Chris Adams, the hired mercenary who rounds up the rest of the fellas to fight off the bandits. This was the first movie I had seen Brynner in, and I was very impressed. As Adams, he played a tough, commanding leader who didn’t take shit from anyone. His stage presence is undeniable. Of the rest, McQueen, Bronson and Coburn are most noteworthy. McQueen’s laidback persona oozes with confidence. Bronson shows a gentle side after becoming “adopted” by two Mexican children. Coburn is a quiet, expert knife-thrower who just so happens to be handy with a gun. The leader of the bandits, Calvera, is played by Eli Wallach in an excellent performance. His character felt like a precursor of sorts to what he would eventually take on in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

The Magnificent Seven [1960]

This is a stellar cast, no doubt, and everyone gets their share of screen time. The characters are likable, the action is solid, and the score is unforgettable; the opening theme was later used in Marlboro TV commercials.

I am still fairly new when it comes to Westerns, but there’s no denying the value of The Magnificent Seven. Despite some slow goings at times, I found the movie to be very entertaining overall, mostly due to the cast’s star power. A cut below Seven Samurai, but a worthwhile remake all the same.

8/10

Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West [Playstation 3, 2010]

Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West

Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West
System: Playstaton 3
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Fatshark AB
Release Date: May 4, 2010

Lead and Gold is a multiplayer-only Western-themed third person shooter available via the Playstation Network. Released two weeks before Red Dead Redemption, L&G was created in order to ride RDR’s coattails. Since the game is only playable via online multiplayer, it is an absolute necessity for it to have a thriving community. Unfortunately, that it is not the case here, and that makes for an underwhelming experience.

Lead and Gold comes across as a mix between Red Dead Redemption gunfights and Team Fortress 2. This is very much a bare-bones online shooter. You select from one of four character types (i.e. close range specialist, sniper, etc) and then play one of six different game modes (essentially a mix of capture-the-flag games and deathmatches). The core gameplay is decent enough — the shooting mechanics are solid, and the maps are well-designed — but the main problems lie within the online experience itself. First, the community is on its last legs. There really aren’t that many people that play this anymore, and I suspect that number will go down drastically once it is removed from the free Playstation Plus downloads. Second, when you are actually lucky enough to find a full game, there is a fairly good chance you will run into some kind of connection issue and get booted from that session. As mentioned earlier, for a game that is only playable online, the internet connectivity needs to be a strength with little to no problems. Throw these connection issues in with the fact that the majority of players have no clue what they are doing, and that gaining XP is worthless (your progress is not tracked from game to game) and you have one utterly pointless experience.

Lead and Gold might have been worthy of producing good times when it first came out, but those days are long gone. For some reason, this is still $14.99 on the Playstation Network, and that is just an insane price to pay for something that is devoid of content. If you are jonesing for a Western-themed shoot ’em up, just pay the extra $$$ for Red Dead Redemption. Don’t waste your money with this one.

4/10

True Grit [2010]

True Grit [2010]

True Grit [2010]
Directors: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Genre: Drama/Western
Language: English
Country: USA

True Grit is the famed Coen Brothers’ re-imagining of the novel and 1969 film of the same name. I haven’t seen the original film (or read the book) so I went into the theater knowing very little about this movie beforehand. The story follows a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross (the debuting Hailee Steinfeld), who sets out to avenge the death of her father by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She obtains help from the unlikely pairing of the one-eyed alcoholic U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and the clean-cut by-the-book Texas ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon).

This is a Coen Brothers movie through and through. The dialogue is razor-sharp and full of wit and humor, with a significant portion of it coming from the snarky Mattie Ross. Between her and Cogburn, there are plenty of memorable one-liners. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of dark humor in this film. All of the characters are well-crafted and are aided by an absolutely outstanding cast. Hailee Stenfield is remarkable as Mattie, and it is hard to believe this is her first feature film. She is sure to get a lot of work after this performance. Jeff Bridges is excellent as always — he sure has perfected the old drunk role, hasn’t he? If I had one complaint about his performance, it is that he was almost *too* good at playing the slurring drunk since there were moments were I had difficulty understanding what he was saying. It should also be noted that Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper really delivered as the “bad guys” in the movie, although their roles were unfortunately rather small.

True Grit is a strong addition to the Western genre, and it has me intrigued to see the 1969 original as well. The movie doesn’t really do anything new, but it is very well-made with an incredible attention to details of its time period. True Grit is a great story of revenge and unlikely camaraderie, and it is highly entertaining. Definitely recommended.

8/10