Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Magnificent Seven

Seven Samurai is a classic film that has been reimagined in many different ways, as a western (The Magnificent Seven) and a space opera (Battle Beyond the Stars). Many movies, specifically westerns take elements from this movie, but never has it been so blatantly remade. Rather than follow the path of it's namesake, this new Magnificent Seven is a straight remake of Seven Samurai, even going so far to use a watered down version of the classic's screenplay.

The town of Rose Creek is being harassed by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a businessman who intends on buying the whole town in order to mine it of all the gold it has. Desperate to save her town, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) leaves to look for protection. She comes across bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) who agrees to help but admits that they need more people. They gather a team that includes Faraday (Chris Pratt), a drunken Irishman hustler without the accent, Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a former Confederate sharpshooter, his companion Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Chinese immigrant who is a knife expert, Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), a mountain man, Vasquez (Manuel García-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw, and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a young Comanche warrior who has been exiled from his tribe. Together this band returns to the town to square off against the forces assembled by Bogue.

Because this movie leans so heavily on Seven Samurai it's really hard to reconcile that this movie is trying to be it's own thing. I know it sounds wanky to say that, but if you've seen that movie, you'll understand the parallels. Things like the introduction of characters (especially Billy Rocks' introduction which is lifted straight from Seven Samurai) or the training of the villagers are just so close to the original film. This seemed bizarre to me because the only connection it has to the original Magnificent Seven is the name and setting. Even though it's trying to be Seven Samurai, it manages to miss the mark by trying to be different. Straight away the movie starts with villainy to make sure that they know Bogue is the bad guy, but there's no gentle build up to it. And instead of having a town meeting to decide go for help, the character of Emma Cullen takes it upon herself to go look for help. Peter Sarsgaard's Bogue is one moustache twirl away from being the kind to tie a woman to the railroad and really does look like a discount Paul Giamatti. When it comes to the big battle at the end of the film, the stakes are dramatically lowered because the whole town takes part in it. This takes away from the whole underdog story. The movie also has a few historical problems. First off, the old west was nowhere near as clean as this. I don't mean that everything is super shiny and new, but it is far from the grittiness that we've come to expect from modern westerns like Deadwood, True Grit and Django Unchained. These days you have no excuse to muddy up you actors. Another minor failing I thought the film had was the lack of discussion around Chisolm obviously being a former slave. This movie takes place in the South in 1879. The Civil War would have been too recent an event to ignore and the film even says that Chisolm had been lynched at some point.

The Magnificent Seven isn't just a steaming mess though. It does have some good elements. The action is exactly the kind of thing you want to go see with this kind of movie, lots of old timey bullets, explosions and tomahawks. The chemistry between Chris Pratt and Manuel García-Rulfo is off the charts and just a joy to watch. Fun fact: when you can't put swear words in a movie, have the Mexican guy call everyone cabron (fucker in Spanish). Vincent D'Onofrio's choice of a squeaky whisper is hilarious and almost made me laugh every time he said something. Although I found it hard to believe that Ethan Hawke's former Confederate soldier would be friendly with Chisolm, the addition of his PTSD from the Civil War was a nice touch. The ending was a nice touch because it was more in keeping with it's source material than a conventional Hollywood ending.

This movie has quite a few ups and downs so it's quite hard to say whether or not I liked it. Within the first five minutes I thought I had written it off as a horrible movie, but it wasn't horrible. Instead it just hung in a strange limbo between good and bad. While the bad parts don't detract from the movie itself, they do serve as a distraction.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget