Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Magnificent Seven ... Early death

IT'S always a danger when you remake a classic film, The Magnificent Seven (1960), based on Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954).   Director Antoine Fuqua's remake, starring Denzel Washington (Fuqua directed Washington in The Equalizer, 2014) as the leader of a multiracial bunch of ragtag shooters, is heavily dependent on its violent scenes, especially the finale, which reminded me of the finale in Saving Private Ryan (1998).
   Fuqua is known primarily as an action director, although his direction of Washington in Training Day (2001) garnered the latter an Oscar for Best Actor. In The Magnificent Seven, he could not handle the task of focusing on seven actors and a female sidekick.

  In the part where Chisolm (Washington) recruits six more gunslingers to protect a small Western mining town terrorised by arrogant rich white man Bogue (a sneering and sweaty Peter Sarsgaard) in 1879, I nearly dozed off. Films that introduce a big cast often get lost explaining each character, and so it is with The Magnificent Seven.
   Washington is best when he expresses his anger and righteousness, but he doesn't get to do much of
Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt hang loose.
this in this film, except at the end. I found him rather passive in this film. One scene has him watching over the town at dark, immobile on his horse and not saying a word.
  One character I enjoyed is Chris Pratt's inveterate gambler Faraday. He's witty and charming, and his delivery of one-liners is impeccable. If he had played Chisolm, this film may have been salvaged.
  The others are sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke, who was also in Training Day); his Asian knife-throwing sidekick Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee); old, bumbly and Bible-spouting Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio); Vasquez, a Mexican (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and liver-eating Native American Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
    I applaud Fuqua's commitment to displaying a multiracial cast that goes out of its way to save the small white town after busty widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett, also in The Equalizer) dangles a few pieces of coins in front of it.
  The film's theme is revealed when someone asks one of the gunslingers why he took on a cause that's not his. It would have been too easy for the gunslinger to say that it was simply because of money.
Haley Bennett is the film's best 'asset'.
    A priest, no less, tells Chisolm that it has been a long time since the kids could play with abandon and the people could stroll around without a care in the world. This happens during the fake war period when the gunslingers are prepping the townsfolk for the ultimate battle.
   This scene can be understood to mean that the US will do its best to ensure its way of life, and that it will reply in kind, and maybe more strongly, to any person or terrorist organisation that threatens its culture.
   When Emma appeals to Chisolm, she says: "He (Bogue) made them murder my husband. He will take everything we have."
  Chisolm replies: "So you seek revenge."
  Emma: "I seek righteousness, but I'll take revenge."
   Viewers will also learn that Chisolm, who plays a bounty hunter similar to Dr King Schultz in Django Unchained, is motivated by revenge.
   A wooden church at the heart of this small town plays a big part in the film. It's where Bogue exhibits
Pratt and Ethan Hawke stare intently at something.
his reign of terror and does something damning to it. The structure becomes a pale shadow of its former self, but it eventually regains its vigour. It's also the place where a character gets his comeuppance, which may be a way of the film saying that Christianity triumphs over evil.
  The music by James Horner and Simon Franglen is captivating, especially in an early scene in the church where viewers can hear plucking-like sounds of a guitar, which eventually meld with the strains of violins.
   The editing by John Refoua is competent, and he comes to the fore in the final shootout, in which he has to give meaning to all the characters running helter-skelter in the bedlam that ensues.
  Alas, even the final shoot-out can't save the film from an early death.

1 1/2 out of 5 stars





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