Guns of the Magnificent Seven is by far the best of the sequels to the classic original. The cast is definitely the second best in terms of "up and coming" actors at that time, and viewers will probably recognize most of them. The plot of this one has Chris (George Kennedy) and a new gang being hired to free a Mexican revolutionary from a prison known as "The Rat Hole". Of course, the prison is run by a highly ruthless colonel, who frowns on dissidents, and tortures and kills for pleasure.
The gang here is an eclectic bunch, each with their own specialty. Although considering more than half the gang gets wiped out in every film, it's beyond me why anyone would still be crazy or desperate enough to join! I guess news doesn't travel over the border much. It's a shame that Yul Brynner didn't do this one (no insult to Kennedy), as it seems more dimension has been added to this character than we've seen before. The character of Keno (Monte Markham) is suspiciously similar to Vin from the previous two movies, but the rest of the gang are wholly original for the series: there's a black explosives expert; a one-armed sharp shooter (who happens to be a Civil War veteran - think of the word play between these two!); an old, fatherly-figure knife thrower; and finally a quiet rope expert who seems to have either cancer or tuberculosis.
What the film lacks in originality is made up for by the characters (and the actors who play them), great action, music and cinematography. The climactic action scene is definitely the second best of the series (although a couple of the gang die way too soon), and the movie moves along at a faster pace then the previous entries. Another interesting note on this entry is that there are parallels within the story to what was happening in the real world at the time of it's release. Racial prejudice, talk of revolution, overly harsh and abusive authority figures, etc. I don't believe any of the other entries touched on modern themes so directly. Yet they don't date the film, and are surprisingly still relevant today.
A couple small complaints: when did Chris's "price" go up to $600 a job??? It was only $100 in the first film and I can't imagine inflation rose that high in a few short years! Although each member is seemingly recruited for their individual expertise, there's no evidence showing any of these skills being used, except as an occasional afterthought. Strangest of all is when Chris says something in Spanish at the end, prompting one of the Mexican children to ask `What did he say?'. I don't know if it's just me, but why wouldn't a child of about 10 understand what was said in his own language?
While the overall execution of this film is standard as both a western and entry in this franchise, it still holds up better than the other two sequels, the earlier "Return of the Seven" and later "The Magnificent Seven Ride". Fans of the `Seven' series, or westerns in general, should find enough excitement here to hold their interest. Just don't go looking for a masterpiece, and accept it as one of the few decent sequels churned out by Hollywood.
**1/2 out of ****
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