The Magnificent Seven

Antoine Fuqua's remake of a classic Western was a decent film, if albeit chauvinistic and racist. It lacked originality, authenticity, fun and an emotional core. Nic Pizzolato's story was more about plotting and moving the story forward rather than a character-driven narrative (more season two than one of True Detective). Denzel Washington was the only cast member to be able to exude a sort of old school/western charm with Chris Pratt being pushed too hard to be quippy and the rest being one dimensional stereotypes.

Fuqua reunited with Washington and Ethan Hawke, all three were last seen together in the excellent Training Day, and their chemistry was evident. Sadly, Hawke was let down by a weak character that had a seemingly interesting backstory but went nowhere.

On the other hand with Pratt, Fuqua and Pizzolato tried too much to bank on his comedic background, but as funny a guy as Pratt is, his one-liners and quips seemed out of sync with the whole film and the rest of the cast. It seemed to play more for the audience - a certain type - than be an organic part of the story.

The final climatic scene was the best moment/sequence of the film, but it lacked immediacy and danger in the way it was shot with every shot clearly framed, choreographed and executed. The lack of actual cowboy/western-esque stunts (see Alden Ehrenreich aka young Han Solo in the Coen Brothers Hail, Caesar!) really hurt this film's authenticity.

At least Fuqua et al set the scene and basis of the film early but it required seriously challenging "movie logic" to accept that these seven men will be part of the group with nary a discussion/objection.

And then that was where another major problem laid. As much as I applaud Fuqua for ensembling a racially diverse cast, and Pizzolato for moving the story out of the original's Americans-saving-Mexicans conceit, why didn't they have the courage to make it a mixed gender cast? The film badly failed the Bechdel Test; other than Haley Bennett there was no other significant female role. And just by having her tot a gun and shooting up bad guys, does not make the film any less chauvinistic, especially if what she did was to make another male character more of a hero.

Vincent D'Onofrio did his best with his limited character and gave his character a certain amount of depth. Byung-hun Lee should be insulted by his racist role - but I guess the paycheck is good. Hawke and Lee had an interesting story initially but that potential devolved by the third act and felt more Lone Ranger and Tonto rather than two equals. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier were the token racial-diversity deux ex machinas. Peter Saarsgard, hardly recognisable, needs a mustache to complete his villainy.

The late James Horner started on the score before he died, unfortunately he had not seen the film yet, and Simon Franglan's final product showed the schizophrenic result with a mostly distracting film score. Ennio Morricone this ain't. Mauro Fiore lensed the film and but as  gorgeous as the sunsets and wide-angled landscapes were, the overall effect was jarring and lent a further gloss of inauthenticity to the film.

In this day with Tarantino's The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained still so fresh in most people's minds, Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven comparatively lacked authenticity and originality.


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