‘Blu-ray or Bust’
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016, PG-13, minutes, COLUMBIA PICTURES)
Approximately five thousand and two people were shot in the making of this western.
Seriously. At one point, “Sam Chisolm” (Denzel “If You Need My Filmography You Shouldn’t Even Be Watching Movies” Washington) walks into the middle of a dusty, lifeless street. He is surrounded by corpses, both townsfolks and bad guys alike, all deader than doornails. And it looks like there are roughly five thousand corpses in the background.
I’m not complaining; the old west was, apparently, a really violent place, and we are lucky anyone made it out alive to continue the human race. In Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 classic of the same name, you get the feeling that there was an R-rated film lurking in here, but it got lost in the marketing stratagem. I mean, all them dead folk, you’d expect a bit more blood on account of it being so dang violent. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all about a good shoot-‘em-up. But there isn’t a whole lotta new in this modern-day retelling of a group of gunslingers coming together to fight off bad hombres.
The original film, written by SEVEN SAMURAI legend Akira Kurosawa, was about American cowboys saving a Mexican town from banditos. This one is about seven cowboys fighting off an evil land baron in America; it doesn’t have the same heroic feel that the first film did. Granted, there are some beautifully shot scenes, and the writing is tight enough. But again: there is not much new on display here that you haven’t already seen in other, better westerns. Also, the camaraderie amongst our heroes isn’t fleshed out enough; much of it is assumed, and most of those assumptions are based on stereotypes. There is a certain underlying bigotry to that age and time, and it is glossed over much more than it is paid attention to. Basically, there are not a whole lot of socially redeemable moments amongst a band of hired guns that are made out to be BFF’s, and it is kind of obvious in its lacking.
And the moments of intimate death…it’s as if new screenwriters Richard Wenk (16 BLOCKS, THE EQUALIZER) and Nic Pizzolatto (“True Detective”) were trying for a SAVING PRIVATE RYAN feel, but pulled back on actually dictating the violence. The cinematography by Mauro Fiore (TRAINING DAY, AVATAR) is exceptional, but at times reflects the hesitancy you feel from the rest of the film.
There are several special features, each about eight minutes long; while it is fun to see Pratt making jokes, what is more entertaining is seeing the cast giving props to real life gunslingers. Yes, they also tend to go on about each other, but the fact that all of them seem appreciative of being able to re-make such an iconic film is refreshing, despite the finished product.
While it is nice to see such an eclectic cast together, sometimes the result isn’t what you’d hoped for. Fuqua has a number of documentaries in the works, and of course Washington, Pratt, and Vincent “Kingpin” D’onofrio are stars in their own right, I cannot imagine this being a springboard for any of the other actors. It wasn’t because of their performances, but is because of what Fuqua did with those performances: not much.
Film Grade: C
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended, if you must
-- T.S. Kummelman