The Magnificent Seven

the-magnificent-seven-movie-poster

Release: Friday, September 23, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Richard Wenk; Nic Pizzolatto

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Try as they might, Antoine Fuqua continues falling well short of the benchmark set by his 2001 smash hit Training Day and Chris Pratt can’t quite make this the Guardians of the Galaxy of the ole wild west. Despite bear-dressing-like-people jokes he is merely one silly pawn in a story that doesn’t deserve them. Not even the all-star roster can lift this generic western crime thriller from the dust of its superiors. The title is The Magnificent Seven, but for me that really just refers to the number of scenes that are actually worth remembering in Fuqua’s new shoot-’em-up.

Here’s all I really remember:

Magnificent Scene #1: The ‘badass’ that is Bartholomew. Billed as a drama, the film opens promisingly with robber baron Bartholemew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) besieging the sleepy mining town of Rose Creek circa some month in the late 1800s. The film’s dramatic thread for the most part sags like a dilapidated tent between two strong points, and the dramatic opening is one of those strong points. Tension is palpable as Sarsgaard’s cold, lifeless eyes survey the room. Haley Bennett‘s Emma Cullen becomes widowed by his murderous spree (or, to be brutally honest but more accurate, her husband’s foolish actions that do nothing but further incense Bartholomew), an act that supposedly establishes the film’s emotional foundation.

Magnificent Scene #2: The Actual Badass that is Denzel. Introducing Denzel Washington is something that needs to be done sooner rather than later and his swaggering cowboy/”dually sworn peacekeeper”/bounty hunter Sam Chisolm walks in at just the right moment (i.e immediately). A fairly typical stand-off inside Rose Creek’s saloon ensues. Everyone in the scene puts on their best ‘Not To Be Fucked With’ face. Rah-rah. Guns. Liquor. Seconds later Chisolm walks out of an empty saloon leaving everyone but a semi-impressed, semi-drunk loner for dead. That loner is none other than Peter Quill Josh Faraday. Chisolm is soon approached and persuaded by a desperate Emma Cullen to gather together some men to take a stand against Bogue and his men to avenge the death of her beloved Matthew and reclaim the town.

Magnificent Scene #3: The Avengers this ain’t . . . but this is still fun. Movies in the vein of Fuqua’s adaptation, those that spend more of their bloated running time assembling rather than focusing on the ensemble itself, are really more about that journey of coming-togetherness than they are about the destination. It’s too bad The Magnificent Seven really only offers one or two strong first impressions. One is a shared introduction between Byung-hun Lee’s knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks — a name that somewhat confusingly belies the actor’s South Korean heritage — and Ethan Hawke’s sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux, with whom Chisolm shares some history. Billy and Goodnight come as a packaged item, apparently; one never goes anywhere without the other and they are swiftly drafted into the ranks without complaint.

Magnificent Scene #4: There’s always at least one crazy. Vincent D’Onofrio also qualifies as one of those memorable introductions. He plays a vaguely mentally unstable (or perhaps he’s just a simpleton) tracker named Jack Horne, a physically imposing presence who clearly hasn’t had much human contact in a long time. His soft, nervous line delivery initially gave the impression the actor wasn’t comfortable in the role and/or that he was about to deliver a career-low performance but the character really ended up growing on me. Of course it would have been nice if he had more to do but when there are seven actors competing on screen I suppose sacrifices must be made, especially when one of them is Denzel Washington.

Magnificent Scene #5: Preparations not reparations. Heeding the warnings of Chisolm and his band of misfits, Emma and her fellow townsfolk prepare for the return of Bogue and what is likely to be many more nasty men on horseback in an obligatory, if not genuinely fun, fix-it-up montage. Rose Creek becomes retrofitted with all kinds of booby traps and hideouts that are sure to give the enemy fits and a mixture of excitement and dread for the bloodbath that is to come starts to build in earnest. Granted, the end results are all but a foregone conclusion: some will survive the ordeal and others will not. We know almost for a certainty that the Magnificent Seven will be reduced in number after this fight. And we also know that ultimately this last battle is just another good excuse for directors who like to blow stuff up, to go ahead and blow a quaint little set right the fuck up.

Magnificent Scene #6: Say hello to my little friend! For all of the film’s lackadaisical pacing and story development from essentially the 20th minute onward, The Magnificent Seven seems to wake back up again at the very end with a rousing gunfight that will demand every rebel’s sharpest wit and shot. It even comes close to earning our empathy as numerous dead bodies hit the ground à la Fuqua’s goofy assault on the White House. The editing becomes frenetic but remains effective and while Fuqua shies away from excessive blood-splattering the violence is still pretty confronting as a gatling gun makes its way into the mix. Ultimately this is the same kind of joy I get out of watching Macauley Culkin outwit the nitwits in Home Alone every Christmas.

Magnificent Scene #7: The end credits. A movie that runs about 30 minutes too long and that fails to make any real emotional connection is finally over. (Though not for a lack of trying: Fuqua awkwardly asks us to pity the lone woman in the group because she has lost her husband — she’s not there because of her individual strengths and in fact many of the rebels can’t or refuse to take her seriously; likewise Hawk’s last-minute cowardly act feels cheap and fails to make us care deeper about him.) I enjoyed the famous faces in by-now-familiar roles and their natural gravitas cleaned up some of the script’s blotches but there is only so much goodwill I can show towards something that feels so well-trodden, so ordinary, so un-magnificent.

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Recommendation: A superb cast barely manages to keep The Magnificent Seven from being a totally and utterly forgettable and disposable movie. The people who you expect to shine, shine — those on the roster you don’t recognize as much don’t turn up as much. Simple as that. Some delicious scenery to chew on, though, and the soundtrack is hilariously overcooked. So all in all, I don’t really know what to make of this movie. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 133 mins.

Quoted: “What we lost in the fire we found in the ashes.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.esquire.com 

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20 thoughts on “The Magnificent Seven

  1. Utterly disposable and forgettable is right man. I actually didn’t mind this at all – it passed a couple of hours, and all that, but I look back now and think the time could have been better spent…like watching John Sturges’s Magnificent Seven again, perhaps. Denzel’s always good, though, and I liked a couple of the others.

    • Yeah that’s what got me into the theater too but they weren’t enough to save this thing. There are some fun bits here and there but mostly this was kinda disappointing for me.

    • Well hello there. Yeah, I have to say I didn’t get much out of this but it seems a lot of people have. I think I’m in the minority with this one, but I almost can guarantee when I watch Seven Samurai (and the Steve McQueen Magnificent Seven) that I’ll be more impressed.

  2. It is “disposable” to be sure, but it has its merits. It blows Fuqua’s own ‘The Equalizer’ out of the water. I was entertained while it played.

    • I never checked out The Equalizer, that just looked really mediocre from the word ‘go.’ It’s been awhile since Training Day for Fuqua, I hope he can turn things around again because I thought this was as average as it gets. Amazing accomplishment with this cast . . .

  3. Oh noooo! I actually really enjoyed this movie, which is bizarre since I don’t like Westerns or shoot em’ up movies at all. I haven’t seen the original films, so maybe that helped?

    • I haven’t seen the originals either but they just have to be better than this generic flick. . .

      I’m glad you enjoyed it though! I think I might be the grump of the group with this one, it really didn’t do much for me I’m afraid.

  4. Oh, I’m not sure I missed it in your write-up, but I thought Red Harvest had a pretty damn cool intro too. But hey, opinions are like arseholes right? Good post dude, I haven’t looked at critics thoughts but I imagine they side with you!

    • Red Harvest had the worst intro of all in my opinion. How does an Indian get persuaded that quickly? That was a great example of the terrible, terrible writing on display. It took one minute for Denzel’s swaggering cowboy to chill the guy out and then, within seconds, he’s like “okay, I’l tag along.” Meanwhile, there was a mean indian running around on the Bad Guy’s side. Characterization here is cartoonish. Absolutely cartoonish.

      • Yeah I guess that is true in retrospect, but in the moment it just looked awesome. I just had so much fun with it all that I totally missed small things like what you just said

  5. Damn man, some harsh words right there. I loved it, a longer movie has never felt so short to me, and it was the most fun I’ve had all year. But again I can’t really disagree with anything you said – except the soundtrack, I liked that. But this does have its flaws, but damnit it was fun!! ;P

    • I really didn’t think I was harsh. This movie’s insufferable runtime and lack of entertainment was harsh! Haha! I’m glad you got some joy out of it though. Yeah cuz when I was reading your review I was like, ‘Uh oh. Jordan’s probably not gonna like what I just had to say about this . . . ” haha!

  6. I went high with this one, I think I’m in the minority lol.
    I went in with somewhat low expectations, and I left pretty entertained all things considered. Actually hankering to see this again.
    I saw this as a summer movie that wasn’t released in the summer like it should have been. I believe this could have raked this year at the summer box office.
    I realize I just used I a lot in this comment…

    • The I’s have it!

      It’s good that you enjoyed it, I have to say my major gripe with it is that it doesn’t do a single thing ‘new’ but it is for the most part a worthwhile trip to the theater. I had some fun, but wished I could have had more. It’s better than a lot of the other stuff out right now

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