The Quick of It -
I heard a snidbit of an interview that discussed the birth, or should I say rebirth, of this film. Antoine Fuqua was challenged by one of the producers with the very real question, “Who will play the Yul Brynner role?” I believe, to paraphrase and probably butcher his reply, “I wonder what Denzel Washington would look like in a black hat?” This could all be just speculative conversation during the initial talks, but you can’t help but believe this must have been said at least once.
The answer to that question is clear after Denzel’s first few minutes on screen, and it is ‘magnificent’. I am such a fan-boy for this guy. I have heard tales of his professionalism when it comes to making a movie, beyond the actor’s contribution to a project. His wisdom has probably saved more projects than we will ever know. After seeing him in action all these years, you know that there can be no doubt of his ‘it’ factor. And he is all that and a bag of chips here.
Let me put it another way. I have this horrible opinion about running around conventions trying to grab autographs and taking pics with celebrities is the most absurd thing. Don’t get me wrong, I understand to a point why people do this. But, really? These actors could care less who you are and they are not the actual characters you fell in love with. And the ‘fees’…? Again… absurd. It should be their work as a whole that makes you excited to see them, not the part they play in a popular show. For me, Denzel is one I would chase through maddening halls, filled with cosplay crazies and hygienicly deficient people, and willing to pay those exorbitant fees.
So, the movie…
Director Antoine Fuqua (of TRAINGING DAY, SHOOTER, THE EQUALIZER, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, BAIT, SHOWPAW) has a track record with Denzel and together; they have the ability to pull a masterful project together. So when challenged to remake a high profile classic, there is no doubt they do so with resounding authority. The story is a little choppy in parts and seemed partially rushed when gathering the forces, but THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN far exceeds this year’s other remakes (please reference GHOSTBUSTERS and BEN-HUR) and does live up to the hype. The acting is exceptional from all involved, which helped to define the uniqueness of each character. The setting was not as gritty as I would envision an authentic western should be. There was a clean presentation to the scenes and people… if you know what I mean (please reference the hygienicly deficient people). I call it the ‘CSI Miami syndrome’. This is where you have sets super tidy and looking like a shiny nickel – such as shipping containers on a large dock not having one speck of rust.
One standout was Peter Sarsgaard (of JARHEAD, ORPHAN, GRREN LANTERN, BLACK MASS), playing the notorious bad guy Bartholomew Bogue. He carries himself in such a way that you take notice of him even when around these other highly recognizable actors. The tension scene that launches this revenge flick was fantastically executed and made you want to see his demise. Also, Haley Bennett (of THE EQUALIZER, HARDCORE HENRY, MARLEY & ME), playing the lead female, continues the empowered woman trend, but does so subtly, as not to feel preachy. Her part may have been diminished with so much screen time needed for other characters, but she was the linchpin and held her own. If she had failed to make you sympathize, everything would have unraveled by the end.
Remakes are always a risky venture, even now when studios and directors should have a greater understanding of what makes a film successful. With Fuqua at the helm and the amazing cast, was there ever any question of its success?