The Magnificent Seven
Cert: 12A / 133 mins / Dir. Antoine Fuqua / Trailer
It's a well-established fact that I'm not a particular fan of the classic-model Western™. It's a lesser-known, but concurrent, fact that I watched the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven a few years back and didn't particularly enjoy it (see fact #1). So going to see a re-tooling of a movie I wasn't arsed about in the first place did not fill me with rootin'-tootin' joy.
And Antoine Fuqua's 2016 reboot begins on unsure footing as the marauding bandits of previous iterations are replaced by a greedy, capitalist gold-mining baron intent on buying up frontier outpost Rose Creek for a pittance and slaughtering anyone who objects, causing the Equity-cards of all concerned to be bent just shy of breaking-point as the live-action pantomime unfurls. Bad Man Wearing Black Is Bad, etc. Luckily (thankfully), the film then slows down as the town's ever resilient Haley Bennett recruits bounty hunter Denzel Washington*1 to help the good folk see off the corporate-menace. Obviously Denz can't do this alone, so he rides around for about an hour picking up Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Vincent D'onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier to assist him.
Now, this was my bugbear with the John Sturges version of the movie. Despite a respectable two-hour running time, the Seven themselves are never fully painted in; and if the eponymous heroes themselves are placeholders then what does it matter what they're fighting for? With only an extra eight minutes in the bank, Fuqua's 2016 version manages to explain the setup (okay, heavy-handedly), then introduce seven other characters to the point where we don't necessarily know them, but we do like them. Ergo, the battle for Rose Creek matters. More to the point, it's also bloody good fun into the bargain.
The principal cast of Washington, Pratt and Hawke aren't stretching themselves particularly here, but they're giving it their all in being entertaining characters. Funny in some places, self-deprecating in others, and committed to whatever the screenplay has in mind for them. Of particular note are Semsmeier, Rulfo, Lee and the fantastic Vincent D'onofrio in being way more than the bit-part players many other films would have featured. Although I'm more than a bit disappointed that Haley Bennett's role didn't expand the way the film seemed to suggest it would, but that's a grumble for another post*2.
All in all though, pretty damned good given how unnecessary the remake was (the second of which in recent weeks, no less).
The Magnificent Seven looks and sounds fantastic, and is performed with all-round gusto. Although behind it all, there's always the feeling that this is a love-letter to everything about Western movies, rather than being an actual Western™ itself. An action movie with cowboy-hats, if you will. Although I'm reliably informed by Mrs Blackout that that's exactly what a good Western should be, anyway…
Tonally, it borders on Guardians of the Galaxy (and not just because of Chris Pratt's involvement). But you'll watch it because you enjoyed the 1960 version, obviously.
For the cinematography, yes.
Everything else will be just fine from your sofa.
And given that the film's features arrows being fired and has people falling off horses from arsehole to breakfast-time, there really is no excuse for its non-inclusion.
Level 2: Loads of direct links in the behind-the-scenes folks, but let's go for Byung-hun Lee, who appeared in Red 2, as did Garrick 'Biggs' Hagon.
*1 I'm not going to bother with character names for this review. The film barely bothers with them and you never forget that you're watching Washington, Pratt and Hawke, anyway. I mean, the characters get names, but they're so inconsequential as to be meaningless.
*2 I won't go into potenially spoilery spoiler-stuff here, but talk to me about it on The Twitter or The Facebook.
*3 Yeah, as much as I enjoyed the film, I'm deducting a point for the marketing department's visual plagiarism:
…talk about having so little faith in your own product that you have to ride on Tarantino's coat-tails.
"Oh Terry, we need to promote a western but I don't want any earth-tones in the poster, everyone uses those. Come up with something, would you?" That poster still boils my piss even after seeing the film, because Magnificent Seven and Hateful Eight are about a thousand miles apart, tonally. To suggest otherwise is either foolhardy or fraudulent.
Also, This is why I don't work in marketing.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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