Sean K. Cureton

Archive for October, 2016|Monthly archive page

The Magnificent Seven: A Display of Violent Passion

In Movie Reviews: 2016 on October 22, 2016 at 9:08 am
The Magnificent Seven

Columbia Pictures

The Magnificent Seven
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
3 out of 4 stars

Director Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven is the third time the 1954 Japanese classic Seven Samurai has been sold as a major motion picture event. Like John Sturges’ initial remake of the same name from 1960, the 2016 Western revenge epic is a crowd pleaser from start to finish. In a film trajectory that has seen the central protagonist change from Takashi Shimura to Yul Brynner to Denzel Washington, The Magnificent Seven remains a fitting tribute to what is undoubtedly the most popular and widely seen film originally written and directed by Akira Kurosawa. There are moments that may ring a little hollow for those who prefer Kurosawa’s grounded historical drama, but overall Fuqua has crafted what is perhaps the best summer blockbuster of the entire year. Clichés and melodrama abound throughout, but thanks to a remarkably diverse cast and moving performances all around, Fuqua’s latest makes the case for the worthwhile remake of a contemporary movie masterpiece.

The film begins when Bartholomew Bogue, a corrupt monopolist played with a sneer by the always welcome Peter Sarsgaard, takes over a small mining town for his own financial gain, and kills the few outliers who oppose him in cold blood. Enter Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, a warrant officer with an enigmatic past whose aid is sought after by the lately widowed Emma Cullen played by Hayley Bennett. In order to mount what is fated to result in a minor civil war of the American Old West, Chisolm is forced to seek out a team of six fellow gunslingers for hire in order to form the titular band of roguish outlaws. Joined immediately by the magic trick flouting, fast talking Joshua Faraday played by rising action star Chris Pratt, the rest of Chisolm’s team forms seemingly out of thin air. When the team has finally been gathered, The Magnificent Seven turns its full attention to a dazzling final display of violent passion and stunning vigilante justice that gives the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe a real fun for its money.

In the Kurosawa original of 1954, the seven heroes assembled were given more time to display their prowess and collective volition. In Fuqua’s 2016 remake, Denzel Washington and his crew appear to have found one another by blind chance and illogical serendipity. Granted, much of the new movie’s appeal comes in its easy going narrative flow that leaves room for emotionally exploitative moments that offer a form of gratuitous immediacy that’s hard to pass up in the moment. Case in point, when Chisolm finally comes face-to-face with Bogue in a psychological battle to the death, the resolution offered is both illicitly thrilling and cheaply amoral. Then again, easy answers and anarchic retribution is typically well suited to the Western genre, which is the case once again in Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven.

If Kurosawa made a historical Japanese drama, than Sturges and Fuqua answered his masterpiece of mid-twentieth century antiquity with a hyperbolic American fantasy. Yet both versions can coexist and compliment one another despite their differences. What’s more, the fact that the same basic formula has been applied time and again in other genres to vastly disparate ends – most notably in Takashi Miike’s 2011 action-thriller 13 Assassins and Martin McDonagh’s 2012 comedy Seven Psychopaths – only speaks further to the property’s undying relevance and viability. Fuqua might not have anything exceptional to say with his The Magnificent Seven that has been explored again already by Sturges, but the fact that the movie is so much fun anyway is a marvel in and of itself. There are fewer blockbuster motion pictures worth your time and attention of late, which makes Fuqua’s new movie laudable despite its excess.