The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972) Review

Director: George McCowan

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, Western

Runtime: 100 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

The Magnificent Seven Ride! is the fourth entry into the franchise, and also the darkest. The plot is sort of a combination of The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Dirty Dozen (1967), being about seven gunfighters, including five prison inmates offered pardons for their handiwork, who must protect a small Mexican village from some raping, murdering, pillaging bandits. It just might be the most engaging of The Magnificent Seven films since the original.

Despite sometimes having a made-for-television quality, this movie still manages to feature some very good action sequences. They’re squibbier than the ones in previous pictures in the series, giving them a more violent edge. Sure, these just might be the weakest set of action set-pieces in the franchise (by just a tad), but they’re still better than those found in most other westerns. There’s really a palpable sense of danger and impending doom here.

The Magnificent Seven Ride! features the least notable set of characters in the series. The flick makes a mistake by recruiting five of the titular seven in one scene, so they don’t get much of a chance to show off their individual personalities. Hell, some of these dudes barely get any distinctive personality at all. The character who returns from the previous three features is played by a different actor in this one (making him the third actor to play this character).

Maybe this movie’s a little weak when it comes to fleshing out supporting characters, but I think it does a better job of establishing tension and dread than Return of the Seven (1966) or Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969). It’s a solid men-on-a-mission action-adventure picture with some better-than-average gunplay. If you’ve liked the previous films in the series, odds are good you’ll enjoy this one.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969) Review

Director: Paul Wendkos

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, Western

Runtime: 105 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

The third film in the franchise, Guns of the Magnificent Seven takes a cue or two from the then-rising “Zapata western” subgenre, a politically-charged type of movie that typically revolved around revolts in Mexico. In this picture, seven gunslingers are recruited by Mexican revolutionaries to help them raid a fortress-prison where the tyrannical government is holding political prisoners. The feature takes place during a presumably fictional rebellion, but it seems inspired by the Mexican Revolution that took place from 1910 to 1920.

While the flicks of The Magnificent Seven series have always been known for their large-scale gunfights, Guns of the Magnificent Seven is the only one that could be classified as a war movie. It starts off with some typical western film action, before delving into the world of a Mexican insurrection with a big battle involving the seven virtuous heroes storming a cruel prison-fortress. The action scenes here are excellent, as is par for the course for the series.

So, what about the characters? Well, no set of gunfighters will ever top the crew we saw in the original The Magnificent Seven (1960), but this film does an adequate job of introducing some fresh faces for the audience. The seven here don’t always feel like they’re given proper depth, but at least they’re easy to tell apart. One of the characters from the previous pictures returns (I won’t spoil who), but is played by a different actor.

Guns of the Magnificent Seven is a step up from Return of the Seven (1966). There may be a slow moment or two, but it doesn’t completely imitate the first flick in the franchise. Full of explosions and a big body count, this one will be appreciated by action-adventure junkies and merely tolerated by most others. If you’ve stuck with The Magnificent Seven series through the second installment, why not watch this one too?

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Return of the Seven (1966) Review

Director: Burt Kennedy

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, Western

Runtime: 95 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The second film of the series, Return of the Seven (which is sometimes called “Return of the Magnificent Seven“) is largely just a rehash of The Magnificent Seven (1960), down to the Elmer Bernstein musical score, which repeats all of the same notes. Opening in the same village that the first movie is set in, a gang of bandits arrive and abduct all of the men, leaving only women and children. Apparently, this isn’t the only town that’s been raided in such a way by the bad guys. Of course, it’s up to seven heroic gunslingers to find out where the men are being held (and why) and rescue them.

Let’s start with the good, shall we? The action scenes, while not quite up to par with the ones in the original, are terrific, featuring plenty of explosions and people falling off of horses. The characters are fleshed out well enough, for the most part. Also, the premise of selfless gunmen putting their lives on the line to save the day is still badass. As I mentioned earlier, the musical score is almost identical to the one from the first flick, but it’s still riveting music.

While the characters are easy to tell apart from one another, the reduced runtime of this flick doesn’t really do them any favors. A slightly longer picture would’ve given the inhabitants of it more time to make their mark. There’s also a few instances where characters from the first movie are replaced by different actors in Return of the Seven. I’m not really going to say who, in case it spoils the ending of the 1960 feature, but they’re just not as charismatic as the originals.

For me, Return of the Seven is perhaps the weakest of the films in The Magnificent Seven series. It sticks so close to the formula of the first installment, while reducing the runtime, that it sometimes struggles to have an identity of its own. Still, I can think of worse sequels from other franchises. It’s serviceable if all you want is some rootin’, tootin’ Wild West shoot-’em-up action.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

The Magnificent Seven (1960) Review

Director: John Sturges

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, Western

Runtime: 128 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The original The Magnificent Seven is a truly heroic film that, along with the following year’s The Guns of Navarone (1961), helped define the modern action-adventure movie. This western is about a team of seven gunslingers who travel to Mexico to protect a defenseless village there from a gang of bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). This is a motion picture in the running for the best western flick of all time.

1960’s The Magnificent Seven features what just might be the best action scenes ever committed to film at the time of its original release. They really upped the ante for the action-adventure genre. The thunderous, iconic musical score by Elmer Bernstein is pure energy, and the all-star, tough guy cast is perfect. The script is funny, without defusing any of the tension or sense of danger.

Released between the end of World War II and the height of the Vietnam War, the feature reflects a can-do spirit and a Wilsonian worldview, where the strong are obligated to help fight for the human rights, liberty, and human dignity of the oppressed, regardless of where said oppressed are located on a map. The opening sequences are marked by an odd existential feel, with aimless, bored men searching for something – anything – to bring meaning to their lives. The movie’s lived-in universe is one that the audience does not mind getting lost in.

An important stepping stone between the traditional western and the revisionist western, The Magnificent Seven holds an important place in the history of its genre. Above all else, this is an incredibly inspiring and empowering piece of cinema. Its message of selfless heroism and fighting the good fight has not dimmed with time. This film gets as high a recommendation as I can give.

My rating is 10 outta 10.

Extreme Prejudice (1987) Review

Director: Walter Hill

Genre(s): Action, Western

Runtime: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Director Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice is an action movie in western film clothing. The story’s about two childhood friends who find themselves on opposite sides of the law and the border…one, Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte), is now a Texas Ranger, and the other, Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe), is a drug lord in Mexico. This is one of the best modern-day westerns and one of my favorite westerns, period.

This a macho man actioner, but the plot isn’t as tight as I wished it was. A huge chunk of the movie’s runtime is dedicated to a team of American commandos who are “officially dead” and working to help take down the drug cartels. Their story does intersect with that of Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe’s characters, but it almost feels like they could’ve been written out of the picture completely. Their stuff sure isn’t boring (Hell, it might be more interesting than the A-story), but these two parallel threads should’ve been better integrated.

The action scenes in Extreme Prejudice are outstanding. The best of the whole lot of them is the final hacienda shootout that was almost certainly inspired by The Wild Bunch (1969). Overall, the action isn’t as phenomenal as it is in that classic movie, but, to tell the truth, I’d rather watch Extreme Prejudice. The starry cast is worth bringing up and they all play well-defined characters.

This underseen action-western doesn’t quite live up to its potential, due to the fact that it seems to be telling two almost-separate stories. The script may have needed a bit more polishing. It doesn’t feel completely focused the way it is now. Still, I can sit back and watch the squibby action and the badass cast and have a great time.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

The Expendables 3 (2014) Review

Director: Patrick Hughes

Genre(s): Action

Runtime: 126 minutes (standard version), 131 minutes (unrated version)

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (standard version), Not Rated (unrated version)

IMDb Page

The plot for The Expendables 3 couldn’t be simpler. A team of virtuous mercenaries is hired to capture a vicious arms dealer named Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). Yep, that’s pretty much all you need to know in terms of story. Of course, the draws aren’t the twists and turns, but the massive all-star cast and the heavy-duty action scenes.

The Expendables 3 was panned by many fans of the franchise for two reasons. The first was that this was the first movie in the series to get a PG-13 rating. Yes, the violence is significantly toned-down here, but did the computer-generated carnage in the first two pictures look realistic in the first place? The second major problem is the focus on the young, up-and-coming action stars, who use up precious screentime that could’ve been spent on the classic actors. I can’t defend this move, but the retro stars still get plenty of time to shine.

Despite a lack of blood and guts, the action sequences here are just as exhilarating as anything in the first two. The grand finale in a bombed-out casino – the perfect playground for mayhem – is prolonged and expertly-handled. The tone’s pretty light, but the villain, played by Mel Gibson, adds just enough intimidation to prevent the film from feeling flimsy or excessively jokey.

The cast is stuffed with almost too many stars and the violence feels a little restrained, but the novelty of seeing so many action legends working their magic hasn’t worn off yet. Harrison Ford, who plays Drummer, the government agent who hires the mercenary team in the first place, is a real scene-stealer. Despite drawing lots of flak, I think this is a great time at the movies. Unless all you’re craving is gore, I don’t see how an action buff can walk away from that final battle feeling unsatisfied.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

The Expendables 2 (2012) Review

Director: Simon West

Genre(s): Action

Runtime: 103 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Only two years after The Expendables (2010), another proudly lunkheaded entry into the series was unleashed in theaters. This time, our team of heroic mercenaries must prevent a cache of weapons-grade plutonium from falling into the hands of a rival group of soldiers-of-fortune. Your enjoyment of this film hinges on whether you liked the first one or not.

The Expendables 2 wrings out every possible opportunity for crazed action. The opening sequence alone probably has more death and destruction than most actioners do in their entire runtime. With the exception of the fake-looking, computer-generated blood (which is still present), many of the problems with the action scenes in the first movie are wrinkled out here. If I had to find one problem with the picture on the action front (other than the unrealistic blood), it would be that it does a questionable job building up to a climax, with the grand finale almost coming out of nowhere.

The miraculous cast from the 2010 original is expanded on here, now including the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme, who plays the bad guy, the appropriately-named Vilain. He seems to be having a fun time. The two actors (who I won’t spoil here) who only had somewhat brief cameos in the first one are given a chance to pick up a firearm and join in on the carnage. The tone in The Expendables 2 is a bit lighter and jokier than the first installment. It may be a bit too self-aware/meta for some viewers, though.

In my opinion, this picture manages to top The Expendables. It has a bigger cast and easier-to-follow action set-pieces, which more than makes up for a segment or two where the combat dries up. This one is strictly for action junkies only. There’s simply not enough comedy, drama, suspense, romance, or scares for anybody who doesn’t just want a pumped-up explosionfest with a colossal body count. However, if that sounds like something you might be interested in, The Expendables 2 delivers the goods and then some.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

The Expendables (2010) Review

Director: Sylvester Stallone

Genre(s): Action

Runtime: 103 minutes (standard version), 113 minutes (director’s cut)

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The Expendables is a special treat for fans of 1980s action cinema, even if the finished product doesn’t always follow the filmmaking conventions of an action picture from that time period. A group of mercenaries is hired to overthrow Garza (David Zayas), the dictator of the Latin American country of Vilena (should’ve been Val Verde, but whatever), and take out James Munroe (Eric Roberts), his handler, a renegade CIA agent. How does a film about a bunch of people shooting each other for over an hour-and-a-half sound to you?

This movie is very much a piece of fan service, but it does what it does so well that I can’t hold that against it. To say that the cast is “all-star” would be an understatement. The pacing is swift, but I wish the heroes had more of a Wilsonian motivation for their mission to topple Garza and restore democracy to Vilena. It would’ve given the flick a bit more justification for the borderline-senseless bloodthirstiness of the third act.

The Expendables is action-packed to the point of going past good taste, something that should have action junkies drooling. Despite often being billed as an ’80s throwback, the action often feels more like out of the twenty-first century. There’s a lot of fake-looking, computer-generated blood and the camera during the fights is occasionally too close to the combat. Combine this with some rapid-fast editing and some dark lighting, and the action sequences don’t feel optimized. Still, they’re ridiculously thrilling when it is possible to make out what’s taking place.

The Expendables is a pure action film for fans of that sort of thing. Fortunately for me, I fit that demographic, so I love it…even if I have some reservations. Don’t expect a perfect recreation of the ’80s action aesthetic and you’ll have a blast (well, if you like action movies to begin with). For me, this is an easily watchable (and rewatchable) feature. Seeing this many action stars under one roof is worth the admission price alone.

My rating is 9 outta 10.

The Foreigner (2017) Review

Director: Martin Campbell

Genre(s): Action, Thriller

Runtime: 113 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Although The Foreigner is directed by Martin Campbell, who helmed two of the best James Bond films, GoldenEye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006), this movie is not up to par with those two pictures. The complicated story concerns an immigrant to Great Britain named Quan Ngoc Minh (Jackie Chan) who loses his daughter, Fan (Katie Leung), to a terrorist bombing in London and decides to harass the British government for the names of the perpetrators, so he can have his revenge. I like the Jackie Chan stuff in here, but these parts are often drowned out by a convoluted plot.

As some critics have pointed out, The Foreigner sometimes feels like two separate movies joined at the hip. One is a thriller about a cell of terrorists trying to reignite “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland and the government’s response and the other half is an actioner about Chan’s character beating up people on his vengeance-driven path. The behind-the-scenes intrigue sequences are kept afloat by Pierce Brosnan’s performance as Liam Hennessy.

The best parts of this feature are, as you might expect, the action scenes. They’re not as manically choreographed as the fights in some other Jackie Chan movies, but they’re still superb. Chan is much more sullen here than he is in his typical action-comedy. He’s certainly playing against type a bit, and I think it pays off pretty well for him.

The Foreigner‘s twisty and turny plot holds it back from being truly recommendable. There are so many characters and so many motivations that we just want all of it to stop and watch Chan pummel some fools. It’s nice to see Jackie doing something more serious – I’m all for that – but this one just feels overplotted.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) Review

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Genre(s): Action, Science-Fiction

Runtime: 93 minutes (standard version), 96 minutes (extended version)

MPAA Rating: G

IMDb Page

Battle for the Planet of the Apes was the fifth and last installment in the original film series. After a nuclear war, underground, radioactive humans seek one final confrontation with a commune of humans and apes living together in peace. It’s not an abomination, but this is the weakest of the Planet of the Apes movies released in the 1960s and 1970s.

After the dark, chaotic, violent Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), a more kiddie approach was decided on for the franchise. Indeed, this is perhaps the most family-friendly of the entire series…including the Planet of the Apes pictures that came in the twenty-first century. Despite being the least graphic, this feature still attempts to grapple with some philosophical issues. Whether it’s successful or not, I’ll leave that up to you.

This piece of cinema has a noticeably lower budget than its predecessors. The ten-minute final action scene seems laughable at first, due to its monetary restrictions. However, director J. Lee Thompson makes the best of a dubious situation and the action (with the exception of a clunky shootout in the radioactive city where the bad guys come from) is moderately exciting.

Okay, it barely lives up to its title, as it borders on being called “Minor Skirmish for the Planet of the Apes,” but this is an okay movie. It certainly is kitschy, and not every scene is completely captivating. However, I still watch it every time I view the Planet of the Apes film franchise of the ’60s and ’70s, so I suppose that says something. It’s not torture unless you’re allergic to sci-fi cheesefests.

My rating is 6 outta 10.