I’m not gonna lie. The thought of Denzel Washington strutting around on horseback sold the film to me months ago.
There’s no denying the appeal of watching him save a mostly white Western Town with his posse of vigilantes. However, Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven” is instantly forgettable. It does nothing to justify its existence. When the credits rolled my initial verdict was that it’s a passable Western. Which is ironic given that the original was nothing more than a passable remake of Akira Kurosawa`s “The Seven Samurai”.
Touching on the long-standing interchange between Japanese and Western genre fiction it was pleasing to see that the movie was self-aware enough to reference this. (Red Harvest is also the title of the novel cited as the inspiration for Kurosawa`s Yojimbo).
That aside, traces of history are hard to spot. Its humourless, clichéd and entirely unsurprising. There’s much more to making a Western than tossing somebody a Stetson hat and throwing them onto a horse.
Rather than create his own vision of Way out West Fuqua has attempted to recreate the old Hollywood magic – and failed spectacularly. Just look at Peter Sarsgaard. He’s a poor imitation of the baddie played by Eli Wallach. Barely five minutes have passed before his character Bartholomew Bogue burns downs down a church leaving townspeople supposedly terrified. Hell one character is gunned downed for having the audacity to ask “What kind of man are you?”
The Big Question: Who`s going to stand up to a man like that?
Well he’s that sweaty and pasty the answer is probably my Nan. He’s the least convincing villain since Neil Casey in the “Ghostbusters” reboot. However, the movie is “The Magnificent Seven,” so you know the answer to the question is not “Pauline from Coventry.”
I read a newspaper article this morning with my cornflakes that praised the cast for being racially diverse. Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier and Hayley Bennett (as the de facto leader of the townsfolk) all star alongside Washington. They look great together – but that’s not a story. There is no angle to the tale that hasn’t already been explored.
From the moment Denzel Washington’s character Chisolm opens the saloon doors and the piano player stops playing it’s as if we are all sucked into one giant swollen mess of clichéd storytelling. It’s long on violence and short on plot, character development and motivation. For me there is simply not enough backstory to believe that these seven would put themselves on the line for this tiny town. The script doesn’t give anyone much of a personality.
There’s a sense of embarrassment to the whole thing, as if as soon as it began, the movie knew it was a mistake, and instantly vowed not to try that again. Half the running time is spent assembling a band of bulletproof daredevils. Bodycount replaces any sort of substance and it’s just lazy writing from Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto.
It’s a passable Western and it will kill a couple of hours but when all’s said and done “The Magnificent Seven” will leave you wishing you’d stayed at home and watched the 1960`s version instead.