Let’s talk about remakes, shall we?
Each year Hollywood dishes out a heaping of sloppy joes that they try to play off as necessary and relevant remakes. Take, for instance, Ghostbusters and Ben-Hur, the latter being a remake of, well, a remake. Both movies received fairly negative reviews, and the former created a tremendous uproar for being an all-female cast, though at least it was doing something a little more daring than the latter.
So while everyone is getting up in arms about yet another remake, Magnificent Seven comes along and people rehash the same old lines about remakes. The few that are seem to only be bothered by the fact that they are remaking the western from 1960 without really knowing that the original film was, in fact, remade from one of the greatest films of all-time, Seven Samurai. So it’s funny how we can steal things from other countries and remake them, but if its a simple remake of our own work then it’s like the world is coming to an end as commentators bitch about how they’re “ruining a classic, and my childhood!” Get over yourself, please.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua—whose most recent work, Southpaw, was an amalgam of the greatest boxing movies without being anything wholly original—The Magnificent Seven sinks into the same pitfalls. It appears as though, in preparation for making his first western, Fuqua went back and rewatched all of the greats while seemingly missing out on Sergio Leone as the film lacks any genuine suspense or anticipation.
The story follows a band of drunks, bandits, lawmen, and veterans of the Civil War hired to defend a town from an army controlled by the weaselly robber-baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, who is largely unseen and really nothing more than a rich bully), but nothing ever seems as “impossible” as the audience is told time and time again as the film breezes by without the seven ever running into any real threats or roadblocks. The crew is recruited far too fast and easily, while the looming clouds of violence never seem so dark. Just a little anticipation—that terrifying calm before the storm—would have sufficed, but the breakneck speed of the movie eliminates any opportunities for the film to slow down enough to build suspense.
Boasting a cast of misfit actors like Denzel Washington pairing off with scene-stealing Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke (who gets a little too into his role) partnering with Byung-hun Lee, we can at least be thankful that this isn’t an entirely white-washed western, though it certainly is testosterone fueled with the exception of one semi-famous name in Haley Bennett.
While fun, there really isn’t a lot to care about in the film as the characters themselves hardly seem to care about each other nor the town itself. Most of the seven barely even talk to each other, save for a few pairings, and much of their motivation is about money, revenge (and Chris Pratt’s horse) rather than just being, you know, good people.
The action is fun and engaging, though each sequence is really nothing more than cutting from one of the seven to the next, highlighting their own method of killing whether it be the knives of Billy Rocks, the bow and arrow of Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), or the sharpshooting of just about everyone else.
The Magnificent Seven is not a magnificent movie. While fun, there really isn’t much to like or care for in its characters and their motivations. Its pace is too fast for any real emotion to develop in a story that is ripe with opportunities to build on themes of loyalty, bravery and community but in the end it is reduced to little more than greed and revenge. So as far as remakes go, this one probably wasn’t really worth it…but at least they tried?
Oh, and Fuqua’s next movie is a remake of Scarface…and before you go on bitching “how dare they,” just remember that it was a remake as well.
It’s not perfect, but it is quite fun. Nice review.
Good review. I agree with you about the story. While large (in scope), the film’ story doesn’t allow much room for character development with the exception of Washington, Pratt, and Hawke (who are the “big-ticketed” actors in the film), leaving the rest of the cast to be (more or less) flat. Though, I still liked the movie. Wasn’t perfect, but it was fun ride.