Monday, December 26, 2016

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Buy The Magnificent Seven on Amazon Video
Written by: Akira Kurosawa & Shinobu Hashimoto & Hideo Oguni (based on the screenplay by), Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto (screenplay)
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Matt Bomer, Peter Sarsgaard
Rated: PG-13

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

Seven gunmen band together to protect a town from a robber baron.
This is a remake of the Western The Magnificent Seven (1960) which was a remake of the 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai (1954).

Sometimes it's better to skip remaking a classic. The biggest problem with this movie is the tone. Is this supposed to be an action movie or a comedy? Is it just set in the West or is it a Western?
It has such a campy vibe to it, putting it closer to The Lone Ranger (2013) than Unforgiven (1992).  I assume, even after watching it, that Unforgiven was the goal, but I'm not sure anyone involved in this movie knows.
This seems like a haphazard attempt to cash in on a classic. Not only that, but it squanders Denzel. He's one of the most charismatic actors, even making the villain in Training Day likable, but this movie doesn't give him a chance because it doesn't know what to do with all the characters.
Skip it.

This is Denzel Washington's first Western, pairing up with Antoine Fuqua once again after The Equalizer (2014) and Training Day (2001).  Those are both worth watching, this movie never takes off.

The very first scene feels like a reenactment, and the tone plagues this film throughout. It's a scene that introduces the villain, but it's the kind of scene that should conclude the introduction, not start it. This villain is cartoonishly evil, reveling in killing people for no reason. His motivation for bloodshed is unclear the entire movie. This town has no direct impact on him. Peter Sarsgaard is the villain and had a fun time hamming it up.

The 1960 version provides reasons for the villain's motives, why the men agree to help, and why they sacrifice for the village. It's better storytelling that establishes the small details. This remake abandons that to create an action shoot 'em up. 

Chisholm (Denzel Washington) is a bounty hunter that's asked to save a town. He's offered everything they have, despite it not being much, and he accepts citing he's been offered a lot but never everything. He then recruits an eclectic group to make a last stand at this town and thwart the oppressive villain.

I can never get away from the tone of this movie. It felt weird the entire time. I was puzzled as to what what this was intended to be. While I kept thinking about Unforgiven, even the more recent remake 3:10 to Yuma (2007) captured something this doesn't. Westerns should have a decisive pace with reluctant heroes that are as tough as nails. This lacks grit. These wise cracking characters don't feel like they grew up in a harsh land. They're too jovial. This just as easily could be a modern day action movie. All you have to do is change the setting and costumes. The dialog wouldn't need to change because it never feels tied to the time period
The Equalizer would serve as a better Western than this, and it's a movie that smartly capitalizes on Denzel's charm. Fuqua knows how to use Denzel to great effect, but somehow forgot in this film.

Vincent D'Onofrio took a really strange acting choice with his character Horne. Horne is a bear of a man, and D'Onofrio gives him a high pitched wheezy voice that is never anything less than distracting. Why did anyone let him do that? Every time he speaks it seems like it must be some kind of joke.

None of Chisholm's six recruits get enough backstory, the movie hints at Robicheaux's (Ethan Hawke) history, but doesn't develop it well. Each of the seven is a particular stereotype, the Spanish outlaw, the Asian assains, the Civil War vet, and Grizzly Adams. This isn't bad, but you have to develop the characters past that, and this movie doesn't do it.
All seven of them know they are going into certain death and have very little reservation about it. Most of them don't even want a reward, gladly sacrificing their lives for a town they've never known and have no stake in. While Robicheaux rides off prior to the fight, I don't think anyone that will ever watch this doubts he'll come back.

The third act has a lot of action in the form of bullets flying, but it's mediocre at best. Of course there is a Gatling gun, but this is such an oft-used gimmick that it has very little impact. I knew we'd see a Gatling gun because this is a Western and it's a firefight.  We've seen these scenes play out before. It's used to create the farce that these guys died nobly, but these don't seem like men that live to fight injustice. The movie needed to establish a better reason. It could be as simple as Chisholm saving Farraday's (Chris Pratt) life and leveraging his friendship with Robicheaux. Have the other six promise to fight for Chisholm instead of the town. That begins to make more sense. The 1960 version did a much better job at that, but the 2016 remake had no depth.

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