Reviewing the film and breaking down Hollywood’s latest fad
THE SANTA CLARA
September 29, 2016
It’s ironic to feel cheated after walking out of a movie that is all about compassion and justice. But that is exactly what happened after viewing Antoine Fuqua’s version of “The Magnificent Seven,” a remake of John Sturges’ 1960 film which itself is based on Akira Kurosawa’s seminal “Seven Samurai.”
The updated version of this classic rehashes the bare-bones plot of the original: seven gunslingers are hired to defend a small town from evil and corruption, which in this version takes the form of a real-estate tycoon named Bartholomew Bogue, underwhelmingly portrayed by a sunken-eyed, nasally-voiced and all but intimidating Peter Sarsgaard.
The titular seven are led by Denzel Washington, who does his best given limited dialogue and a criminally underdeveloped character. Sure, he looks awesome donning all black, riding a black horse and picking off bad guys with dual pistols, but the fact that he isn’t given one single monologue is a downright travesty.
Similarly misused is Chris Pratt, who plays Josh Faraday, a gambler and self-proclaimed “world’s greatest lover.”
Pratt tries to tap into the squinting, gravelly-voiced charisma of a young Bruce Willis, but only bats about .300 with the bad-ass oneliners. “Guardians of the Galaxy” showed us that Pratt is better suited playing insecure and sleazy anti-heroes, as opposed to macho killing machines. In a word, he’s miscast.
The one performance that shines is courtesy of the bearded and beefy Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays a tracker that looks more like an animal than most of the animals he tracks. Matching the ridiculousness of his appearance is the contrasting, squeaky sound of his voice, which sounds like a muffled Julia Child.
In one scene, a sprinting D’Onofrio leaps from an elevated porch, tackles a man off a horse and proceeds to brutally stab him to death. It’s the highlight of the movie and one of the more shockingly and disturbingly funny things I’ve seen on film.
Special mention should be given to the casting department for rounding out the film with a racially diverse supporting cast. It’s refreshing to see, especially in the notoriously and historically white-washed Western genre.
However, the thinness of the script and the abundance of characters doesn’t allow any of the individual actors to shine or even really develop their roles. Though a step in the right direction, the diversity of the cast is ultimately a hollow gesture.
The worst thing about the film is that it lacks originality—a problem with any remake. This was apparent from the cinematography, which featured the routine opening wide shot of a frontier landscape, followed by dozens of “intense” close-ups, interspersed with several pedestal shots that showed a hand on a holstered gun and slowly revealed the gunslinger’s “intense” facial expression.
The visuals got old fast and the molasses-like pacing of the film led to several instances where I checked the time on my phone, praying that the end was near.
It seems to me that remakes like “The Magnificent Seven” are made for one of three reasons. One, the filmmaker wants to recreate past magic in the present day—a lesson “The Great Gatsby” (the novel) taught us is frivolous, but could possibly be the case here.
Two, the filmmaker is trying to reinterpret and improve upon the imperfect original—certainly not the case here.
And three (and most likely), the studio is trying to make money, using a mathematicallysound formula, exciting production value and solid marketing to inspire hope but ultimately deliver dissatisfaction.
Hollywood’s recent love-affair with sequels, prequels, spin-offs, rip-offs and especially remakes is slowly but surely alienating audiences. The recent remake of “Ben-Hur” flopped critically and commercially and it seems like moviegoers are starting to catch on to the desperate cash grabs of the studios.
Hopefully, we will all continue to smarten up and not let our curiosity consistently trick us into seeing banal blockbusters.
But once again, and for quite possibly the fifth or sixth time this calendar year, the big studios have won and I have lost. I bought my ticket and watched every second of the stylish but substanceless “The Magnificent Seven.” Shiny gift wrap and sparkly bows are nice, but only if there’s a present underneath. Sure, you can polish a turd, but it will still be anything but magnificent.
Contact Jimmy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.