Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Michael Biehn, Eric Close, Rick Worthy, Kurtwood Smith, Andrew Kavovit, Dale Midkiff, Ron Perlman, Anthony Starke, Laurie Holden, Michael Greyeyes|
|Producer:||Lynne Symons, Dennis Stuart Murphy|
This film is somewhat entertaining (within the limits of the Western format), and the story has a moral. Although I don’t care for remakes of films that were fine the first time around, I understand the need to produce new material with present-day actors. This version was the pilot episode of a TV series.
A band of about 40 post-war Confederate guerillas led by the unpredictable Col. Andersen (Kurtwood Smith, “North and South II”, TV’s “That ’70s Show”) discover a golden ceremonial mask while stealing provisions from a black/Seminole village. Andersen shoots one of his own men for attempted rape of a villager; then he threatens to murder the entire village unless they reveal the location of the gold mine. Andersen has a bad leg and is addicted to the painkiller Laudanum (tincture of opium), which partly explains his erratic behavior. It doesn’t explain him referring to his Battle Flag as the “Stars and Bars;” no real Confederate officer would make that mistake. that’s just poor screenwriting.
Going to the nearest town to find help, the village elders watch as gunfighters Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner (Michael Biehn and Eric Close) save a black man (Rick Worthy) from a lynch mob. For a nominal fee of $5 each, the elders eventually recruit these three men plus a young gunslinger wannabe (Andrew Kavovit), a gambler (Anthony Starke), a ladies’ man (Dale Midkiff) and a soul-tortured veteran gunslinger (Ron Perlman) who seems to be atoning for past sins by serving a church. From the point that the Mag7 are formed, the story’s general outcome is easy to predict; only the details are in question.
Content Warnings: Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of gunplay and killing. it’s now acceptable for broadcast TV to use bullets-thudding-into-flesh special effects. There are a few uses of d* and h* and some racial slang. Midkiff’s character is shown in an implied sexual encounter with a married woman (no nudity, and played for laughs).
Elmer Bernstein’s music from the 1960 version is re-used here and is still a stirring piece of work, although those of us from the days of TV cigarette advertising usually think of it as the Marlboro Man theme.
Production Values: The acting is “TV-style” rather than the emotional style used in high-end movies. Kurtwood Smith, despite playing non-likeable characters in “Rambo III”, “Robocop” and “Dead Poets Society”, has the screen persona of a bureaucrat rather than a villain.
As for star Michael Biehn: In “Terminator”, “Aliens” and “The Abyss” he was very intense and his characters were believable even if the stories were not. Here, he and the rest of the cast are required to play their parts over-the-top. In his character’s opening scene, he sits calmly at a table while a bunch of drunken cowpokes shoot up the town. When a bullet comes through the window and takes the neck off a bottle of Red-Eye that he’s been drinking, he doesn’t bat an eyelash but just lifts the shortened bottle to his lips.
Biehn became a star by portraying high-action characters, both hero and villain. In his later career, he’s taken roles in Christian-oriented films such as “The Ride” (1997) and “Meggido: Omega Code 2” (2001). The central point of “The Magnificent Seven”—inconveniencing ourselves to help those in need, just because it’s the right thing to do—isn’t an explicitly Christian action, although it’s something all Christians should be doing. If we translate that point out of this violent setting and figure out how it applies to our everyday lives, then seeing the film will have been worthwhile.