Released all the way back in 1954, Seven Samurai has quite the legacy. As if it was not already one of the best films from Akira Kurosawa, it got its own Western remake into a literal Western with 1960’s The Magnificent Seven. It then received a brace of sequels before getting remade twice- once into a late ’90s TV series, then again in 2016. No stranger to spiritual remakes either, 1980 brought forth Battle Beyond the Stars, a cult Sci-Fi flick. That is without getting into other takes, like Japan’s 2004 anime remake Samurai 7, Hong Kong’s 2005 Kung Fu version Seven Swords, an episode of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, etc. Needless to say, it is a busy market.
That in mind, the latest homage to Kurosawa’s classic, The Glorious Seven, was written & directed by Harald Franklin (Fuel to the Fire 2016, Heroes and Cowards 2019) and is due out Tuesday, March 12th on DVD as well as VOD thanks to Uncork’d Entertainment. But how is it? Glorious? Magnificent? A battle beyond the star rating?
It tells the story of ex-military commander David Guerra (Jerry Kwarteng: Tatort 2016, Call the Boys 2017). He has been hired by Anthony Levin (Fernando Carrera: Quién es Quién? series), a corrupt millionaire, to save his wife Valentina (Julia Mulligan) from Javier Morales (Fernando Corral: Águila Roja 2015), a guerrilla group leader. Guerra manages to get six of his old comrades together to take Morales on, but they are still hopelessly outnumbered. Maybe there is a chance they can pull it off.
It certainly is not shy about its influences. Its intro sequence straight up puts the cast alongside that of The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai, complete to a ho-hum cover of ‘My Generation’ by The Who. At least this film is upfront about it. The same goes for its action and central conceit. It opens with a chain gang breakout and the storming of a mansion. But it is okay because the man of the mansion is a slimeball holding a woman hostage, and the storming unit are freeing her. However, the slimeball is the Seven’s boss and the unit are the bad guys.
The ambiguous nature of the wronged victim vs the villains was in Seven Samurai too, but it happened much later in the film when the audience got invested in the samurai. Whereas here, it all goes down before Guerra even appears. The viewers know from the off that the Seven are walking into a moral quandary. This provides some intrigue about how they will get out of it. Still, it does feel like the twist has been revealed too early.
Other elements feel undercooked. Some characters seem to have a prior history with Morales, yet they do not get delved into. Not when there is room for more horseback riding through the mountains. The film might not be aiming for Shakespeare, yet its drama could have done with more polish.
The acting is not exactly great either. Most of the cast sound like they are reading off their lines than playing a character. They certainly try, some more successfully than others, but they are ultimately varying qualities of wood. It is not like the dialogue is worth a Novello award or the like, as it is mostly standard, action flick fare. Yet much of it could have hit better if the talent was more finely honed.
Still, this is the genre that gave the world Schwarzenegger and Van Damme. Duff acting can be overlooked if the gunfire, fights and explosions play out well. Luckily, it is quite solid here. Old school, western-style ambushes meet military-style shootouts. There are even some fair hand-to-hand punch-outs, though nothing that will put 2018’s Blood, Sweat and Terrors’ best shorts to shame. Still, there is little to complain about here.
Likewise, the camerawork is solid throughout, making the most of its settings. It has some very beautiful shots of East Asia and Central America. Many action films desaturated its colors, but The Glorious Seven looks positively vibrant by comparison. The shots flow together rather well too. Though the sound design is another story. It is not awful, though it has some noticeable flubs. Certain orchestral scores ham up the ho-hum drama, alongside some dodgy ADR work. Some voice-overs work fine, while others stick out like a sore thumb.
How does The Glorious Seven rate overall? The action is quite good, and the film is shot very well. Though the characters could have been as colorful as the scenery if the writing and acting was better. It does not match Seven Samurai nor Magnificent Seven for pathos, and it is too serious to catch on like Battle Beyond the Stars’ cheesy campness. Ultimately, the film is only half-decent. As such, Cryptic Rock gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars.