33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Brooding and Absorbing Sequel,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Return of the Magnificent Seven [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Scratching deeper beyond the surface one can find RETURN OF THE SEVEN to be significantly different from its predecessor, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It is much more than a thematically framed sequel which it can easily be mistaken for. RETURN OF THE SEVEN is a dark film and it does not offer the hope of a truly optimistic future for any of its characters. In this respect it is a complete inversion of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Through their catharsis in the original we saw an attempt at redemption through an act of nobility on the part of the seven. They truly were noble and I believe were redeemed for their transgressions as gunmen. Some thought they could start their lives over again but inevitably they could not. That film had to end as it did with the seven ultimately all committed to their singular code of ethics and morality in an emotionally charged finale. In this film there is very little emotion on the surface. Instead director Burt Kennedy gives us a thought provoking study into the human psyche and the very nature of defeatism of the human spirit. In this film there are no pretensions on the part of the seven. For most of them this is just another gun job. There are no higher aspirations that they are cognizant of. If it were not this job, it would be the next. To tell his story Burt Kennedy focuses almost entirely on the character of Chris the leader, perfectly portrayed again by Yul Brynner. This is not really a tale of the seven. Instead Kennedy uses Brynner with all his aplomb and apparent stoicism to curiously examine and probe the motivations of the other six, Lorca the villain (pompously played by Mexican director Emilio Fernandez) and several other key characters. In effect Kennedy takes what was apparently a happy or satisfactory ending from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and asks what if. What if 10 years later the remaining characters are not so contented as prior events led us to believe they would be? Would friends be willing go up against innumerable odds? Would strangers once again sign on to go up against those same innumerable odds? Do the strong still have to help the weak? And who really are the strong and the weak? When 50 or more marauding vaqueros whisk away Chico (Julian Mateos) and other Mexican farmers from surrounding villages Chris and Vin (Robert Fuller) agree to come to his aid. However it is Chris alone that recruits the members of the "seven" this time out. Kennedy singularly endows Chris a sense of morality and level headedness in this film that comes from his wisdom and manner of nobility. In effect this is Brynner's film all the way. Just as John Sturges' directorial style was so smooth that his own storytelling glossed right over the depth and complexity of his own work so is Burt Kennedy's. However, Kennedy is challenged with a very dark and brooding tale to tell. Where Sturges' THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN could easily have been taken on a purely action film level and still been successful, Kennedy does not have that luxury. Kennedy has to deliver an action film built on previous events and he also has to approach the story from a different perspective to remain fresh yet keep it thematically to the concept of the original "Seven." Not an easy task! If the viewer does not look deeply into this film it may just appear as a well produced `dud.' However, I believe Kennedy succeeds far beyond expectations the more times I view this film. Again it comes back to Brynner. He makes members of the seven (Vin, Chico and Colbee) all come to realizations about themselves with his subtle yet profound dialogue. He gives Riker and Luis a chance at redemption even though both men come from total opposites of the spectrum. He helps the failed priest rise from his failures "at least as far as his knees." Chris even gives Lorca, the villain a chance to ride out because when Chris was younger he gave him the same chance. However, Chris refuses to let Lorca now bathe his personal grief as an ineffectual father "in other men's blood." Yet even Lorca is literally redeemed by the end of the film. When Petra tells Chris that the farmers will never forget them he simply replies, "That's all a man can ask." That is the mystique and legacy of the "seven." Even the character of Chris is endowed with human flaws. He recklessly took on the young Manuel rounding out the seven "for luck" with tragic results and we see Brynner deeply grieved on the screen. This is a film of hard lessons learned. Technically this is a well-made film. The cinematography is full of crane, dolly and tracking shots, which gives it both perspective and movement. Bernstein's score is full and lush and this is the single cohesive element that keeps the seven together. The set designs are dark, grim and rustic giving the film a pensive psychological depth. The payoff for Brynner and the viewer comes in the final shot. Looking at the farmers rebuilding the village he comments, "I'll be damned." Vin looks at him and responds, "I doubt that. I doubt that very much." They both ride off. They just don't make heroes like that any more.