“Why the hell was Haliee Steinfeld who played Maddie Ross not nominated for best lead actress instead of nominated for best supporting actress, she is the main character in every scene, come on Academy”.
This, however, did not dampen my enthusiasm to go and see The Magnificent Seven. I actually really liked the look of the trailers. It looked like it was giving off the Guardians of the Galaxy vibes, helped by the fact that Chris Pratt was one of the actors featured heavily in the trailer. Plus, it looked like it was gonna be a lot of fun that was kind of devoid from a lot of the summer blockbusters that came out this year.
Now, for the purposes of this review, I did watch the original 1960 Magnificent Seven, and, I didn’t really like it. Don’t get me wrong, the first 40 minutes are actually pretty good, but there is a long portion of the film where it moves so slowly and we are just waiting for something to happen. It’s another example of a Western that has a good concept but hasn’t aged well and the only novelty really now in seeing it to see how young Yul Brynner looks, and Steve McQueen, who let’s face it, are the only recognisable people in the film and the only characters that you will actually remember since several of them feel under characterised although that’s probably because they are Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.
This version has been directed by Antoine Fuqua who is not a director that you have probably heard of, but you will have heard of a lot of the films he has directed including Training Days, Olympus Has Fallen and the recent Equaliser remake and there is one thing that this guy is good at, it is taking old ideas and making them really work, with the exception of Olympus Has Fallen, because that film is really bad. So how did this director do at translating one of the most recognisable Western franchises ever?
Plot wise, this new version of The Magnificent Seven follows the 1960 version pretty closely. The town of Rose Creek is being terrorised by shady entrepreneur Bartholomew Bogue (played by Peter Sarsgaard). After he demands the land within 3 weeks and murders half a dozen people in town to make his point, widower Emma Cullen (played by Hayley Bennett) seeks out warrant officer Chisolm (played by Denzel Washington) who realises he cannot do the job alone. He recruits Josh Faraday (played by Chris Pratt), Geednight Robicheaux (played by Ethan Hawke) and his partner Billy Rocks (played by Byung-hun Lee) as well as hispanic fugitive Vasquez (played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) bounty hunter Jack Horne (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) and native american warrior Red Harvest (played Martin Sensmeier). It’s now up to these seven to defend the town from Bogue’s next assault, and he is coming with an army.
I made the comparison with Guardians of the Galaxy, mainly because it looked like it would be a fun genre piece that would inject a bit of fun back into the Western genre, as it stands, it does kind of achieve that. The first half of this film is actually very good, there is a lot of character set up but it certainly handles that a lot better than the 1960 film because it doesn’t take so long to get these characters introduced and their personalities are quite evident early on and their position and their contribution is made pretty clear pretty fast. The casting is also a very strong point. The seven are much more diverse this time around and as a result we identify them a lot quicker and easier. Although there have been some complaints about the lack of Hispanic actors considering the original dealt with an Hispanic village being attacked but personally I didn’t see a problem this time round since we do have an interesting and diverse cast as it is, especially considering that the native americans are actually played by Native American actors this time around, plus, how many other chances does Byung-hun Lee get to appear in a Western. The plot has also fixed the terrible pacing issues that the 1960 version had. The film moves at a much brisker pace mainly to suit the fact that it is serving a slow Western, this more takes the elements of a Western and makes it a modern action film, similar to what Django Unchained did. The film is an interesting Western romp, it really revels in Western cliché’s and set ups, we get everything from the Mexican stand offs, one of which is a very good mimic of a shot from the original film, the saloon fights, gun battles, horse riding off into the distance, you name it, it’s in this movie.
The majority of the film is genuinely kind of fun. The characters have very likeable personalities and they all have very good chemistry on screen so the bond feels genuine. It is very clear all the cast are having a very fun time on set and the energy does improve the film in several areas. The only major negative is the fact that there are a lot of characters in this film, probably a few too many. As a result a lot of people feel under characterised. I think fans of the original will be a bit disappointed that the townspeople are a lot more under characterised this time round which gives less reasons to care about them. My problem with the 1960 film was because there was so much time devoted to the town and the townspeople, it meant we lost a bit of the seven as a result. This time the trade off seems to be the other way round which is personally the way I preferred it. Of the seven though a couple of them do feel like they get the shaft. Vasquez doesn’t feel like he has much time devoted to him and Red Harvest feels really under utilised and really under characterised, he barely has anything to do in the film. I’m glad there is a leading role for a native American actor since there are very few roles for them in the current climate, but, outside of fight scenes there really is no purpose to him in the plot. The characters also appear to be fighting for screen time in the lead role, especially Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington, who the film keeps trying to shift back and forth as to who is the main character. In fact there are large portions of the film where the focus will be on one or the other and never quite hits a balance between the two of them until the very end. The characters are also not very innovative they are rather cliched. but in a good way, because it means we identify with them in their role in the group quick and well.
The film has clearly been pitched to the studio as a Western version of The Avengers and it actually feels similar to that film on a lot of levels, particularly in how the team comes together, in fact it feels very much like a superhero origin story, which is kind of how it falls apart in the last section of the film. Ok, first off, if there is one thing that really is a down grade from the 1960 movie, it’s the villain. This villain is so bland and forgettable, he doesn’t feel menacing or his presence never feels constant throughout the entire film. In fact apart from the massacre at the beginning and one scene in the middle he never really does anything that evil throughout most of the movie. He is just one step above the villain from Pocohontas he is just the greedy asshole who wants the land and gold. In fact there is even one line at the beginning of the film where he gets the kid to put his hand into a jar of dirt as a way of demonstrating he wants the land, I was half expecting him to break out into the song “mine, mine, mine” from Pocohontas. While the final fight scene is appropriately built up and played out, he doesn’t feel like he has much presence in it, in fact he is barely involved in the final fight up until the very last minute and even then he doesn’t really do much. Bad ass villain, he aint!!! Even his minions don’t get much to do. He has a native american minion who is a bad ass fighter and he has barely any time to do anything at all, he appears and has a fight with Red Harvest.
Also the second half has a much darker tone that doesn’t quite fit with the film that was set up prior to it. Granted anyone who has seen the original film probably can predict the darker tone to come but that doesn’t change the fact that it does kind of feel like it was messing with things in a way that wasn’t really necessary. They thankfully have dropped the romance plot which was really one of the worst parts of the original film but it doesn’t make up for it that what they have added to it has really changed the tone from the original so when they try to go back to that later on down the line it doesn’t feel like the two parts match. The film makers have clearly tried hard to appease fans of the 1960 version whilst also making it marketable to a younger audience that have been impressed by modern action films, particularly the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. But those two demographics are such poles apart that I feel trying to aim for both of them doesn’t hit on a decent middle ground. Also the film doesn’t really juggle the sub-plots of the characters as well as a movie like Captain America Civil War does, granted I wouldn’t expect a film with this many characters to do that and normally I wouldn’t harp on about it too much, but Captain America Civil War really proved that you could have a film with a ton of characters and give them all a purpose. The second half also tries to give a lot of back story to the characters which really should have been given earlier on. There is one bit of a back story given in the final scene that really comes the hell out of nowhere and it is really out of place. It’s not been fore shadowed in any way, it wasn’t really built up at all and it comes the hell out of nowhere and adds nothing to the film, it’s generally dumbfounding. Antoine Fuqua in that sense has done what he has done with a lot of his films, which is he has very good ideas but he never quite gets to the finish line with his films and as a result the whole thing feels kind of depressing by the end and it also feel like not much was accomplished except a lot of bodies, and believe me, there are a lot of bodies by the end of this movie.
I don’t want to talk any more about my grievances with the film since I would have to go into spoilers in order to do it, but, believe me, there are a few elements of this film which feel quite predictable and believe me we are going to be getting into predictability in movies later on in this review when I talk about the other film I saw this week. All in all I thing the plot of Magnificent Seven starts out very strongly but doesn’t quite hit the finish line, but for what it’s worth, it is actually kind of fun.
As for the actors, all the supporting cast are rather so so. Peter Sarsgaard is really trying hard to be a managing bad ass villain but he is not given the material to work with so as a result he turns in a rather poor performance. Hayley Bennett is also trying her best but again her material isn’t amazing apart from stuff at the beginning of the film when she is a well written character so she is rather confined by her performance. It seems like they want to make her a bad ass independent kick ass girl stereo type character but they haven’t quite figured out how to do it. As for the Seven themselves the stand out performance is Chris Pratt who seems to inject a lot of fun into almost anything he is in and he is really starting to become one of my favourite actors at this point in time. Likewise, Vincent D’Onofrio really gets into his performance again, though granted, I will admit I’m not sure what kind of accent he is meant to be pulling throughout the film. Ethan Hawke seems like the guy who is having the most amount of fun playing a bad ass cowboy and what I am getting from interviews is that this is the kind of role he has wanted to play for a long time. Also Denzel Washington, despite the fact that he has worked with Antoine Fuqua quite a bit also really wanted in on the project because he has never done a Western and he also appears to have really thrown himself into the role though I do get a sense that he has borrowed a lot of his moves and mannerisms from Jamie Foxx from Django Unchained, that might be slightly racist on my part but it was very hard not to get Django Unchained flashbacks. Byung-hun Lee also really delivers in this film, it’s one of his best roles to date, I actually kind of liked him in this. Martin Sensmeier has really been the person who has been most screwed by this film, granted, I am very happy we have a Native American actor in this role but he is not given enough to do and as a result he kind of looks bored a lot of the time, mainly probably because he is just expected to stand there in the background. Last but not least, Manuel Garcia-Ruffo is also doing a fine performance despite the fact that he is not given enough material. The cast list works works pretty damn well and I genuinely enjoyed most of the performances in this film it’s just that there were not that many outside of the Seven.
The fight choreography in this film is actually pretty good, granted there are a couple of scenes that are shot way too close to cover up some of the faults, but the editing and cinematography in these scenes is actually pretty good and the sets are really great. They really captured that Western feel with these sets and the set pieces really suit the action pretty well, I think there are a few too many explosions and the film as a result is really tipped into a Michael Bay on that level! I am also glad the film is not afraid to put guns in this film, not everyone uses guns, for example Red Harvest uses bows, arrows and axes plus Billy Rocks is a knife specialist so we get to see a lot of that from him, but I am glad that despite the current climate that a Western film has not shied away from having the characters wield guns. Let’s fact it, in this environment, there were a lot of people wielding guns, it was a dangerous time and the film makers haven’t shied away from it. They also haven’t shied away from very realistic shootings, not as gory and wince inducing as a film like Green Room, but still not exactly light hearted despite the 12A rating.
The Magnificent Seven is a remake that almost worked completely, but it is held back by a few elements. The actors are pretty decent, the plot moves at a decent place and the action scenes are very good, plus it does a decent job juggling the characters even though a few don’t get the necessary screen time they need. The film is held back by a really weak villain and a second half that really doesn’t match the tone of the first. I prefer it to the 1960 version because it has a bit more fun and it has fixed a lot of the pacing issues and dropped a lot of the un-necessary sub plots from the original but I would be lying if I said I thought this was a great movie. The first half is genuinely fun and I did enjoy myself watching the film but I am not sure I can entirely recommend it, I don’t think there is enough for fans of the old film to latch on to and I think they will be disappointed by the newer elements bought into the film and I don’t think a younger audience will connect with it as the producers want them to. I suspect this film will find an audience and it is a decent attempt at a remake but I think it needed a little bit more. As it stands, it’s a pretty fun movie if you don’t think about it too much.
I was away at the Autism European Congress in Edinburgh for most of the week so as a result I did not get a change to see that many films between this and Blair Witch. I did clear up my schedule to see Bridget Jones Baby, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why.
Bridget Jones Baby is a film that could have been worse and it’s better than Edge of Reason, I will give it that. I wasn’t a massive fan of the original Bridget Jones Diary, but I at least admit that it was competently written and directed. This one on the other hand, is a real mess and it’s a real nothing movie, there is not much here. I went in with different expectations because our fellow Axia member Elspeth Bromiley had been to see the move and she felt it was excellent, well, I’m glad she saw it because this is the one occasion where I completely disagree with her. There is nothing to get me invested in this film, this is one of the most tired and predictable scripts I have seen all year. There are a couple of amusing moments, mainly Emma Thompson who coincidentally is one of the three screenwriters. That doesn’t change the fact that it is really not funny, and it’s just dull at this point, it’s such a bore to sit through. Nothing is left to chance. The performances are all pretty bizarre. There are some hipster characters that are so over the top and caricatures of themselves that they don’t feel real in any sense of the word. Much of the humour is really out of date including references to gangnam style, the pussy riot trials and that guy who was brought on the BBC to represent Apple despite the fact he was going in for a job interview. These jokes were past their sell by date years ago and it’s proof that the script has clearly been sitting in development hell for ages and has clearly come out at the wrong time. Nothing feels accomplished by the end of it and it was a complete waste of my time. I don’t even think fans of the original will get this one not to mention the characters are incredibly horrible and immature to each other. Colin Firth is one of the saving points, but that’s just because he is Colin Firth and I was kind of annoyed that he was in this because he has proven he has much better acting range than people give him credit for and this is something he can do in his sleep, but Patrick Dempsey really has no reason to be in this film and is a complete cardboard cut out, you could have easily reworked this film with several rewrites, but as it stands, it’s not worth it.
“Well, that’s my two cents for this week. If you have any comments on The Magnificent Seven, or Bridget Jones Baby, please leave something in the comments section, I will try to reply to as many as I can.”
That was my week done. Next week I am really looking forward to my next movie, because it is one of the most interesting directors latest film, so on Oct 7 I will be publishing my review of the new Tim Burton movie Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, which has been adapted from the best selling series of novels.
Thanks a lot for reading my review, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and because this is a written review I can’t do a gag about ‘riding off into the sunset’.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant