Three Amigos (1986)

By simply reading this premise on paper it could well come across as utterly ludicrous, just a totally off the wall mess. Three of the 80’s best and wackiest (white) comedians as gunslinging, Mexican/Hispanic inspired cowboys that do battle against Mexican bandits. I mean…my God! Can you imagine the outrage if this was released today! Holy spitballs!

The plot: This idea has been around for a long long time. Its been used a good many times and still pops up from time to time. The Three Amigos are famous movie stars of the silent, non talkie pictures era (1916). They generally make heroic pictures that involve stopping dastardly, moustache twirling bandits that threaten small villages. Meanwhile in Mexico a real village is being controlled and extorted by a local gang led by the infamous El Guapo. One of the villagers sees a movie of the Amigos and believes they are real, so she sends a telegram calling for their help. The Amigos, thinking the whole thing is just another gig for them, decide to take the job and head down south. Eventually, after a warm reception from the locals, its time for the Three Amigos to face El Guapo and his men. Could this end up being the Amigos greatest performance? Or their last?

I gotta be honest here but for a generally average to small sized movie (I think), just a silly spoofy comedy, this movie looks fantastic! The opening sequence showcasing a small black and white reel of an Amigo movie, really does look terrific. They really capture that early 1900’s vibe with the heavy makeup on the actors, the film being slightly sped up, the snappy random editing, and of course the dialog intertitles with the fancy decoration. This short little intro for the main protagonists sets up the entire movie, and the characters, perfectly. We then move onto the studio back lot (somewhere in Hollywood) and again it all looks really authentic with those very old wagon-esque automobiles dotted around, the sandy dusty ground, the large billboards, the costumes etc…

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Overall the movie is highly effective in conveying the various locations from early Hollywood, the deserts of Mexico, and El Guapo’s Mexican fortress. Well, for me at least, being a Brit. Maybe for an American who knows California it might all look a bit familiar, seeing as scenes in Mexico weren’t actually filmed in Mexico, but in California.

But its of no surprise that this movie is all about the cast, the main trio. And what can I say? Its damn near perfect comedy casting, three of the greatest comedians in movie history, Chase, Martin and Short (Short the lesser of the three). But the funny thing is, back in the 80’s we were spoilt for choice with these now classic comedians. Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Belushi, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Gene Wilder, Eddie Murphy etc…Just think about it for a minute, you could of easily teamed up any one of these legends and this premise would have still worked flawlessly. The era was perfect, the talent was perfect, the story was perfect, the writing was perfect, and overall it was perfectly directed by John Landis. Pure unadulterated lightning in a bottle.

We have a plan. First we break into El Guapo’s fortress…

…and then??

Well, we really didn’t expect the first part to work so we have no further plan

Quick shout out to the added bonus of Joe Mantegna as the studio boss Harry Flugleman. With Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz as his personal lackeys. Again amazing casting, even in the small cameo roles. Its actually such a shame we don’t see more of these characters because they looked great; you can see the potential for more great scenes from these guys.

Naturally the cast indicates the type of humour to expect (folks over a certain age will know), and that would be pure lunacy epically delivered. In general the comedy includes slapstick, clever camera trickery, stunts, wordplay and simple spoofing of the genre. Each cast member clearly had their own schtick based around their own individual style which they incorporated into their character. Lucky Day (Steve Martin) is the more intelligent, well-rounded leader of the Amigos. He’s somewhat brave and does all the talking/negotiating. Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase) is probably the least intelligent Amigo, a bit simple perhaps, easily led astray. He’s a bit of a ladies man, a bit flashy and brash, but also a bit of a sycophant and creep. He’s also the most cowardly. Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) is probably the bravest of the trio and the dark horse; he often manages to surprise his compadres with hidden talents.

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There are so many small nuggets of comedy gold throughout this movie its impossible to do it justice right here. But take it from me, aside from the more outrageously obvious laughs, there are plenty of tiny facial expressions, poses, quips, and winks that will make you grin from ear to ear. The moment the trio are breaking into El Guapo’s fortress by scaling the walls. They reach the other side just as two guards walk by. The trio literally freeze where they stand despite being in full view; the guards just walk by without noticing a thing. The way the trio act towards El Guapo thinking its all an act, then start to cry when they realise its real. Then at one point a plane flies overhead, Dusty asks ‘what’s it doing here?’. Ned replies ‘I think its a mail plane’, Dusty replies ‘How can you tell??’. Ned responds ‘well didn’t you notice its little balls?’.

Aside from the outlandish comedy on display the movie isn’t perfect, you still find yourself asking questions. Like why is there an invisible swordsman? What’s his story?? Where exactly did the trio get the instructions that led them to the singing bush and the invisible swordsman? Why is there a singing bush? The singing bush is terribly fake looking, doesn’t even match the scenery. Why do the Mexican bandits constantly fire their guns in the air?? Doesn’t that waste bullets?? Lucky got shot…what happened to that??! Where did they get all the correct material from to make so many Amigo outfits in the finale? What exactly does El Guapo get out of this tiny village?? Him and his men never seem to do anything. Lucky gets shot in the foot…what happened to that?? On the very (presumably deliberate) obvious desert night time set, why does the tortoise speak? In the end, after saving the village, the Amigos refuse the monetary reward and ride off into the sunset. But where to? they have no money, just like at the start of their adventure, so what exactly are they gonna do?

Of course many of these questions just don’t matter because the movie isn’t supposed to be looked at in such depth, its just a very light-hearted spoof-esque comedy. The overall balance between the characters is absolutely perfect. Each cast member gets their time to shine with gags they may well have thought up themselves, but often feature all three. The villains and village folk appear to be actually played by real Mexican actors, or at least look like or come from Hispanic countries. Something which is actually quite surprising (the SJW’s would approve I’m sure, maybe). The movie is very bright, breezy and colourful with moments for both youngsters and adults alike, but its the cheeky wit that is so alluring. The real mystery is how this movie continually seems to be overlooked and forgotten.

9/10

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The Magnificent Seven (2016)

So surely everyone knows this is a modern remake of the old 1960’s classic western, which itself was a remake of the old 1954 Japanese classic ‘The Seven Samurai’. And again surely everyone knows how influential both movies, especially the 54 film, have been in cinematic history. So this does beg the question, do we really need to see yet another remake of this concept? Do we really need an almost exact copy of the 1960’s version merely with up to date stars? The answer to that is no we don’t.

So what we have here is essentially the same film albeit with minor changes throughout, because you can’t make a beat for beat remake can you (ahem!). So that means you have a small town in the wild west of America that is under threat from a corrupt industrialist, a Mr Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Mr Bartholomew is using the good people of Rose Creek as slaves to mine for gold, I think that’s what it was, doesn’t really matter. His henchmen kill a load of innocents when they stand up to him which forces Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) to go off in search of help. Cullen comes across warrant officer Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) and manages to convince him for the job. Chisholm then sets off to hire more good men to help him. What follows is surely obvious to all.

So lets look at the heroes, the seven. Well its a nicely rounded, dare I say, politically correct group of gunslingers that’s for sure. Most of whom are gunslingers by default but some have other skills too. Yes the group is diverse but for me it was a little too obviously diverse. You’ve almost got a person to represent every community, which is fine for marketing purposes (and today’s overly sensitive climate) obviously, but it just seemed a bit too forced to me.

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So looking at the characters what have we got. Denzel Washington naturally plays the all round hero and leader of the gang, Sam Chisholm. Of course we discover that Bogue had killed his family years earlier so that’s very convenient and cliched. The overrated Chris Pratt is Joshua Faraday, a ladies man and slick gambler. Ethan Hawke plays the hard to pronounce and stupidly named Goodnight Robicheaux. A southern dandy type who fought for the confederacy and is a sharpshooter, he’s basically the Doc Holliday of the bunch. Vincent D’Onofrio plays Jack Horne, a larger than life man of the wild who likes to stab people and wears an odd hat. Lee Byung-hun is Billy Rocks (again stupid name), an immigrant who is an expert with knives and doesn’t use martial arts amazingly.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is the stereotypical Mexican of the team who uses two guns. And lastly Martin Sensmeier plays the native American Red Harvest who does exactly what you’d expect the character to do, looks exactly as you’d expect him to look and joins the team for no real reason whatsoever. Its like he joins just so they have a native American on the team. But wait there’s more! Just to really make sure everyone is covered in this modern remake, we even get a woman on the team at one point (Cullen), technically. Nothing wrong with that of course, but again it just feels a bit forced, a bit obvious.

So how do they compare to the 1960’s seven? Well lets be frank here, they can’t compare in any way, how could they, I don’t even have to explain why. Plot wise its actually a very similar affair though. The old seven consisted of a Cajun (the fast gun), a drifter (the humorous one), a knife expert (errr…the fast knife guy), a fortune seeker (after lots of loot any way possible), a traumatised veteran (once feared, since lost his nerve), a brash young gunfighter (wanting a reputation as a tough guy and gunslinger), and a half Mexican, half Irish professional in dire need of cash (the loser?). The old movie does utilise diversity for sure but its not as obvious, not as in your face, the old seven feel a bit more natural. But the old team were helping Mexican townsfolk where as the new movie shows the seven helping a more white European bunch of townsfolk. Some interesting switches there. Obviously there are plot differences between the 1960’s version and this new remake, I won’t delve into them as this isn’t really a comparison of both movies. I compared the characters because they are clearly the meat and potatoes of the movies and in both cases have big A-list names attached.

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This remake is a technically impressive film that’s for sure. Nothing that will blow your mind I might add as we’ve seen it all before, but nonetheless, credit where credits due, this film does look the bees knees. The camera work on the landscapes, the wild west sets both exterior and interior, the costumes, the weapon close-ups, the make-up, the pinging bullets, stunts, the camera work on gunslinging etc…Everything looks slick, crisp and completely authentic, as said…as you would expect these days. But even though the majority of the movie does look sweet, they do mess things up by going over the top in places. For example the character of Billy Rocks, sure he looks cool…but maybe too cool? Having all these small katana blades around his waist seemed a bit silly to me, a bit too comicbook-ish. All the main heroes seemed a tad overdressed for my liking, a bit too flash really. Also at points the camera work/angles on some gun fights almost seemed almost too good, too flashy; maybe a more grounded approach would have looked better?

As for action, fisticuffs and other such cliches, well its a mixed bag of dull and dumb truth be told. For a start we all know what’s gonna happen, how its gonna end. We all know most of the good guys will be killed off in heroic last stands (I won’t say who but…its all very clearly politically correct put it that way). The gun fights are loud and realistic but totally cliched and uneventful. The big finale at the end is even more cliched and even more ridiculous than I even thought possible. Big bad guy Bogues has this entire army of a few hundred men descending on this small town, yet seven men manage to fend almost all of them off, riiight. All of the good guys seem to have guns with infinite bullets in them, hardly ever do we see much reloading.

The bad guys are a constant stream of stupidity, literally one after another running into plain view for the good guys to gun down easily. All the bad guys are utterly useless at gun fighting…and taking cover. And lastly, Bogues has around two hundred men I think it was, so that’s a lot sure. But I would say at least half are killed in the first wave of attack on the town. Then after that each of the seven take down loads of these useless cowboys, one after another like on a shooting range. It just feels like the good guys take down way too many bad guys, of which there seems to be an endless stream. Plus we never see any horses get killed despite the fact that clearly tonnes would have been blown to pieces.

On one hand a modern retelling is a good way to show how an old movie could look with up to date effects, camera work, stunts etc…On the other hand it can still be completely pointless in many cases, and this just happens to be another case. Bottom line, all you have here is a remake just for the sake of a remake in order to use current big bankable stars together. Why do I get the feeling the bigwigs behind this are just jumping on the current ‘Avengers’ team-up angle, sticking groups of A-list names together in anything they can. The thing is they didn’t even make good casting choices in my opinion. There are way better and more interesting actors that could have been cast here, both A-list and B-list/quirky character actors. There really is no reason to ever come back to this after your first viewing; why would you when you have two far better original movies to watch instead. Yep this flick isn’t gonna stick with you for very long, already forgotten, next!

5.5/10

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