by Jeric Llanes
Bang! Based off Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), The Magnificent Seven is an attempt to adapt the universally praised Japanese film for western audiences. Substituting samurai warriors with gun-slinging cowboys, the main drama of the film is almost identical to the original. In this film, a Mexican village of farmers is being oppressed by the menacing Calvera and his troupe of bandits, leaving the villagers no choice but to hire a skillful gang of mercenaries to drive their oppressors out of their village. I haven’t watched many Westerns in my time, but the genre itself is distinct for being slow paced and having these long, drawn out scenes that string out the tension of the film.
For almost half of The Magnificent Seven, we spend time gathering the seven members of the crew and watching them prepare for an almost impossible battle, learning about their specific skillsets and backgrounds as we go along. Now, introducing each character individually with their own scenes does take its toll after a while. At times I wanted them to skip the intros and pull out their guns and start blasting!
But through it all it seemed to work better this way. There is a lot of substance underneath the flashiness of the shootouts. It’s easy to label the main cast as generic cowboys, but all of the seven members are unique in their own way, and you learn to appreciate them more over time. I also found an intriguing question of morality for our heroes. What separates these seven men from Calvera and the other bandits? All of them are stone cold killers that solve their problems with a quick draw of the gun. Can we really call The Magnificent Seven a band of heroes when they’re so closely linked to the lifestyle that the villains choose to follow? I love how the underlying plot of the movie isn’t so black and white, and at times our heroes are written with a dark undertone, subtly hinting a sadder ending for the protagonists. The life of a gun-slinging cowboy isn’t all fun and games, but can also be a life of never-ending torment. The line delivered by Yul Brynner’s character at the end of the film sums it up perfectly. “Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”
However, the “magnificence” of it all is that the seven mercenaries come together for something bigger than themselves, choosing to fight for the protection of others. They find honor in fighting for a cause, and risk death in order to benefit the farmers who need their help. This was their saving grace, at least for me, as their sense of justice redeems the seven mercenaries from their harsh life as wandering outlaws.
This classic Western isn’t so cut and dry and actually has a lot going on in this film. The action is fast paced, and accompanied perfectly with a booming soundtrack that captures the essence of these moments in high tension. Along with this, there is drama, humor, and a tad bit of romance (for those seeking it!). Overall, this is a feel-good adventure film for all audiences to enjoy and remember for years to come.
Where to Watch this Film: The Magnificent Seven (1960) is available for rent/purchase on Youtube, Amazon Video, VUDU, Google Play, iTunes, and Netflix DVD.