Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Dir. Antoine Fuqua
Staring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke,Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard

When a evil industrialist (Sarsgaard) menaces a town near a gold mine, bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) agrees to assemble a team to help protect the townspeople.

In this period of remake culture, it seems inevitable that any movie that has any bit of name recognition is going to get a remake. Remaking the Magnificent Seven us a no brainer. It's a simple enough story, and as long as the actors have chemistry together there's a good chance that the movie will be enjoyable.

Luckily the film that we got is a good one. I had made it a point to avoid most of the advance trailers for the movie, so prior to going to the theater all I had seen was a couple of posters and a TV spot. I had high hopes once I saw who was cast in it, and figured if anything it would be I interesting to see how they handled the leader of the Seven being a black man. And putting Chris Pratt in the place of Steve McQueen is a good choice, and he comes across better than he did in Jurassic World. More like a drunk, obnoxious version of Starlord.

Aside from the cast, the best thing about the movie is that it isn't a straight up shot for shot remake. It takes the basic set up of a man assembling a team to protect the town, but overall the story is different. Sarsgaard's Bogue is much different from the bandits of the earlier films, and his plan to terrorize the town to get people to sell him their land for basically nothing is a stock villain plot of hundreds of old westerns, it isn't something that had been done in any of the original M7 films, and it gives it more of a American Industrialist slant. There's also a reveal at the end where it shows that one of the Seven has had previous dealings with Bogue, giving him a more personal stake in the events od the story, which is a more modern motif rather than the heroes of the original film joining in the fight cause it was the right thing to do (and for money).

That's not to say that there aren't some similarities. It's impossible to not see the scene that introduces Byung-hun Lee's Billy Rocks as an direct homage to the scene that introduces James Coburn's Britt in the original film, but at the same time it does the same thing in a different manner. Same with Ethan Hawke's Goodnight Robicheaux and him sharing PTSD with Robert Vaughn's Lee. Both characters story arcs deal with them having to overcome this, but both films handle it in different ways.  But at the same time the film has characters like D'Onofiro's tracker Jack Horne who isn't like anything in the original film, and Martin Sensmeier's Red Harvest**, a Comanche that joins up with the gang. Horne is one of the odder but more fun characters in the movie, mainly due to D'Onofiro's wonderfully odd performance, thanks to the odd vocal choice that he uses for the character. But it works. Really my favorite thing about the movie was the duo of Goodnight Robicheaux and Billy Rocks. Those two characters are a lot of fun in their brief moments in the film, and I would love to see more of their adventures. But part of me also hopes that this will attract more of an audience to Byung-hun Lee's earlier Korean western The Good, the Bad, The Weird, which is a really fun movie.

One thing that I hate that I have to praise about the movie is that the action scenes were shot and presented in a way that where it was easy to see and know what was going on during the battle. This is a problem that has been plaguing a lot of recent big budget action films lately, so it was nice that this didn't fall into that trap. Another nice thing was the reuse of the iconic theme to the original film.  It's one of those great cinematic themes, and hearing it during the film was a nice touch.

The Magnificent Seven is a fun ride, and it's worth checking out. Good performances, good action. It's better than some of the original's sequels, and hopefully it will be a remake that is remembered fondly rather than a remake that is forgotten as soon as it leaves theaters, like the remakes of Total Recall or RoboCop.

*It's ignored for the most part. Other than one moment when Chisolm and Billy walk into town for the first time by themselves. The townspeople seem a little concerned but after that they seem fine with it. Granted the movie seems more focused on telling a fun action story rather than dealing with racial matters of the day in an interesting manner. Maybe that's my fault as a viewer. But then four of the seven isn't white.

**Cause the Dashiell Hammett's novel Red Harvest was adapted into Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa, which was readapted into A Fistfull of Dollars.

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