Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016)


Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
2016. Rated PG-13, 133 minutes.
Cast:
Denzel Washington
Chris Pratt
Ethan Hawke
Haley Bennett
Peter Sarsgaard
Vincent D'Onofrio
Byung-hun Lee
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Martin Sensmeier
Luke Grimes
Matt Bomer
Cam Gigandet
Jonathan Joss

The good people of Rose Creek have had it. For far too long they have been ruled under the iron thumb of Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard). He took over the town which he uses as his base of operations as he's mining the nearby hills for gold. Things are so bad, the townsfolk have a meeting to decide what should be done about the situation. Bogue and his goons show up, uninvited of course, and a number of locals end up dead. One of the survivors, Emma (Bennett), lost her husband. Not one to take such things lying down, she and Teddy (Grimes) ride over to the next town in hopes of hiring someone to take down Bogue with what little money they have. Emma sets her sights upon Sam Chisolm (Washington), a warrant officer who proves himself to be a badass. Knowing he can't do it alone, Chisolm then goes about trying to recruit some more help. Eventually, he winds up with a multi-cultural, multi-talented team of seven, duh, who ride into Rose Creek to do battle with the evil Bogue. Yes, dear reader, there was already an iconic western title The Magnificent Seven. Let's call this one a reimagining. Better yet, let's call it the same thing as the "original," an Americanized version of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

The very beginning of the movie plays pretty harshly. However, the tone quickly settles into a more fun vein. It starts with the two biggest names in the cast, Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. As the leader of our ragtag bunch of gunslingers (and knife throwers) Washington plays the type of role we've seen him play what seems like countless times before. He's authoritative, capable, confident, and literally, riding into town to save the day. His indomitable swag drips off the screen. Pratt is also in a role he's played before. He's the charming wise-cracker out to do something heroic and to have a good time doing it. Essentially, he dons the same persona that served him so well in Guardians of the Galaxy. He and Washington are both perfect fits for their characters. They aren't necessarily giving Oscar worthy performances. What they are doing, however, is being movie stars. The power of their magnetism is on full display.


An assortment of character actors take on fairly stock roles. Thankfully, they are able to make the most of them with some excellent work by actors making these characters their own. Vincent D'Onofrio is the most memorable as Jack Horne, a big man with an odd voice, and faith to spare. Like lots of other D'Onofrio characters, this one is just the right kind of over-the-top. Byung-hun Lee is a leading man in his native South Korea, but often relegated to "Asian fighting expert" in his American roles. He is nearly as good as our resident knife thrower, managing to be greater than the role calls for him to be. Peter Sarsgaard is just as good as our villain. He makes Bogue perfectly detestable with a mustache twirling performance. Ethan Hawke is often a leading man, but not one who fits the classic Hollywood prototype. He's quirkier, more human than most. The quality serves him well, here, enabling him to give us the person with the most depth as Goodnight Robicheaux, a former Confederate soldier clearly dealing with PTSD.

While the men dominate the screen, and generally take turns being dynamic, it's Haley Bennett who gives the movie its heart. Her Emma Cullen is the person who sought out our hired guns. Since her husband was killed she has the most reason for wanting their efforts to be successful. She brings much needed passion to the film and endows her character with more than enough weight to ground the film. However, that's not her only job. She's not some feeble woman waiting on these big, strong men to save her. She's ready, willing, and fully able to take an active role in her own emancipation. In fact, she's more able than any of the men native to Rose Creek, and with more guts, too. Such a role demands dignity and grit. Bennett supplies an ample amount of both.

In case I haven't already made it clear, The Magnificent Seven of 2016 vintage has more in common with the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, both part of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, than with Seven Samurai. This is both a blessing and a curse. It never takes itself too seriously and has no goals as lofty as being being than its source material, or for that matter, the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven. It merely seeks to be entertaining. At that, it succeeds, delivering a lively popcorn flick that takes a giddy approach to much of its dialogue and its violence. The downside of this is that the film is quite shallow. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, and for some it won't be, but there is the potential to provide a more meaningful movie-watching experience. It touches upon a number of themes relevant to today's viewers. Unfortunately, it never does anything more than scratch the surface. It gets a few laughs out of each, or gives us a brief deep moment, then moves on to something else. In essence, the movie teases us with greatness, but consistently settles for being fun. This is okay since it is a blast to watch. The small disappointment is that it could have been more, but chose not to be.

22 comments:

  1. I might see this although nothing holds a candle to The Seven Samurai which is still one of the best films I had ever seen.

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    1. No doubt. This is a fun flick, but definitely not in the same league.

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  2. Great review! I'm actually kind of gutted that I missed this in the cinema because it sounds like an absolute blast, and Westworld is giving me an appetite for westerns!
    - Allie

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    1. It is very fun. Glad I went to see it. Sounds like I should check out Westworld.

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  3. I forgot about this already! I skipped it in theaters, but I'll probably check it out on DVD. I'd like to watch the original Seven Samaraui but the run time scares me. lol

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    1. Seven Samurai is fantastic, but does take some stamina.

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  4. I think this came out during my personal dark days (late summer/early fall), so I'll be much happier to see it now. The cast seems like waaaay to much fun to pass on, empty story or not.

    Great post!

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    1. The cast is definitely loads of fun. It really works for what it's trying to be.

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  5. Great review. I'm so disappointed that this flew heavily under the radar, because I thoroughly had a blast while watching it!

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  6. I think I'd definitely be down for this. No remake can ever match up against Kurosawa's original but this sounds like something fun I wouldn't mind watching on a Sunday afternoon.

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    1. This is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It's pure popcorn flick.

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  7. Great review Dell. I enjoyed the heck out of this one, but I haven't seen the original. I LOVE Denzel and he's always so effortlessly cool as a cowboy. I also love the rapport between Byung-hun Lee & Ethan Hawke.

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    1. Densely was crazy cool, here. And you're so right about the chemistry between Lee and Hawke.

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  8. They're nearly as invincible as super heroes too!

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  9. I honestly don't really like this, but it certainly gives more fun and it has a more engaging backstory compared to the classic Magnificent Seven or even Seven Samurai.
    But I love your points here. Great review!

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    1. Thanks! Too bad you didn't like it more.

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  10. Like the 2016 Ben-Hur, I have almost no regard for this film. I might watch it one night for a bit of a laugh but it's an esteemless entity masquerading as creative endeavour. Ugh.

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    1. Haven't seen the Ben-Hur remake, but this one does have something going in its favor. It seems to know what it is and holds no pretenses about being some great film. It's just out to entertain, and I think it does that pretty well.

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