Tuesday, January 3, 2017

3 Short Paragraphs: The Magnificent Seven

2016, Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw) -- download

Speaking of Ethan Hawke in westerns, we have a remake of a classic western with Hawke as a gunfighter with a dark, damaged past. I could get used to him doing such roles. The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the 1960 movie of the same name, which in turn was a cowboy remake of The Seven Samurai.  The core premise is that a group of leaderless men (gunfighters/ronin) is hired / inspired to take on a land baron even though the odds will be sorely against them.

The seven are as follows. Denzel Washington is Chisolm, a bounty hunter with airs of being a better man but who truly is seen as The Man in Black. Chris Pratt, the gambler looking for some personal redemption, or money, or both. Ethan Hawke is Goodnight Robicheaux, the ex-Army man (The South) with trauma about how many men he killed. Byung-hun Lee is Billy Rocks, friend and sidekick to Goodnight. Vincent D'Onofrio is a bear of a mountain man. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is Vasquez, who Chisolm has promised not to hunt, if he joins. And finally, Martin Sensmeier is Red Harvest, a Comanche who joins because... well, I don't really know why he joined.  Haley Bennett (and no it's not Bryce Dallas Howard, in case the trailer caught you, like it did me) is the heroine, the woman who goes to Chisolm and convinces him of the righteousness of this job.

Really, it's hard to screw up a western, but it's also as hard to do a good western, kind of like chicken wings. The templates are all there, so following them is expected, but surpassing them is a challenge. I am a Fuqua fan but of late he doesn't seem to be able to merge his style with the story telling. In The Equalizer he had some incredibly wonderful stylish scenes, but the story lacked. This movie is all story, and the style is just familiar --- not bad, just capable western. I was hoping for ... more. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the hell out of it, but I was hoping it would rise to the glory of the originals.