Show of hands; who here in The Man Corner likes westerns? More specifically, who here like westerns that are remakes of remakes (threemakes?) directed by the underrated action director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) starring the ALWAYS cool Denzel Washington? . . . Everyone? Lucky you! I happen to have just watched one of those, The Magnificent Seven (2016), and I am happy to report that it (mostly) lives up to it’s badass potential.
The Magnificent Seven starts off in the mining town of Rose Creek where the town folk are in a bit of a dispute with rich mining industrialist Bartholomew Bogue. Bogue wants the townspeople to leave (I don’t remember the reason. Basically he’s a bad guy so he does bad guy stuff) so he offers them $20 to pack their stuff and hit the road (The internet claims that would be around $460 now, so probably not enough to just pick up and start over somewhere else). They politely decline so he politely. . . . lights their church on fire then murders a group of locals, including Emma Cullen’s husband. He then tells the remaining townspeople they have seven days to decide to accept his offer and move off the land. At the end of the seven days, he will be back to murder those who choose to stay behind. Hey, don’t act all surprised. . . I told you he was a bad guy.
Emma Cullen, played by Haley Bennett, a better acting, less annoying, poor man’s Jennifer Lawrence, decides to accept applications for the position of Town Defender with one requirement: You must be MAGNIFICENT! I feel like maybe she should have lowered the bar a bit, perhaps to “you must be any Joe Gunfighter willing to die protecting a town and doing some badass stuff”. Maybe then she could have found more than seven. Anyways, the bad news is her standards were too high so she only finds the seven fellas to defend the town against an army of hundreds. The good news is they definitely are magnificent.
I like a lot of things about The Magnificent Seven. First and foremost, Denzel Washington! How the hell has Denzel never been in a western at this point in his career? Admittedly, Denzel is one of those actor who mostly just plays himself in every movie. In his case, though, “himself” is so damn cool it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t get old. That is especially true in this movie. He is just being Denzel but it is perfect for this movie and perfect for the western setting. He combines the cool obvious lethality of Clint Eastwood with the calm swagger of . . . well, of Denzel Washington. Denzel is MADE for westerns. The credit needs to go to director Antoine Fuqua who went after Denzel for the role simply because he wanted to see him on a horse. Man was he right about that!! Seeing Denzel, decked out in all black from his hat to his horse, riding over the crest of a hill with the sun at his back is one of those rare “I can die happy” moments in life. He is THAT cool.
Speaking of Antoine Fuqua, is there a more reliable or consistent badass movie director working now than him? Just look at his filmography. Training Day, Tears of The Sun, Shooter, Brooklyn’s Finest, the list goes on and on. His movies might not all be great but DAMN they are cool! His streak continues with The Magnificent Seven. The list of directors that are capable of shooting action scenes competently in this day and age is a short one, and Fuqua would be at the top of that list. The best thing about Fuqua’s movies; No ridiculous Jason Bourne type shakey cam! He films action in a way that makes it fast and energetic while still being coherent and smooth. Everything that happens amidst the chaos is clear and visible to the audience.
While the action is AMAZING, a majority of the movie is spent on quieter scenes letting us get to know the characters. A lot of times, getting to know these characters, and watching them get to know each other, is just as much fun as the action scenes. All of the characters have quirks, which make them fun, but they are developed enough so they become more than just caricatures of those quirks. All the characters in the group are Magnificent (Obviously. . . It’s not called The Mostly Pretty Good Seven), but the most Magnificentest of the group are Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt.
Ethan Hawke’s Goodnight Robicheaux ( What a fantastic name) is a former sharpshooter in the Civil War with some sort of PTSD. Robicheaux is fleshed out more than any of the other characters and it helps that he is played by Hawke, maybe the most versatile actor of the cast. Hawke brings an intensity to the role that makes you believe he was a legendary killing machine during the war, and counters that with a vulnerability that allows you to relate to the character as a human being. It a great role and EASILY the best acting performance in the movie.
Chris Pratt’s Josh Faraday is a gambler with a knack for talking himself out of situations. He plays the funny goofball of the group, similar to his characters in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, but he’s a bit more of a jerk in this one. Basically he’s Han Solo. There’s even a scene where he shoots a guy who comes asking him for money Faraday owes him (I’ll have to double check to see if that character is named Greedo). Pratt, as always, is very likeable and he is perfect at bringing humor throughout the movie which helps to keep it from ever becoming too serious.
While there are many things I like about this movie, that doesn’t mean it isn’t without it’s faults. The main issue I had with this movie is it seems too shiny or glossy. I don’t know how to explain it. It seems like a big budget, shiny, blockbuster movie TRYING to be a western instead of actually BEING a western. All the characters are clean cut, all of their clothes are nice, all the locations seem nice and clean. There is no grit to it, no dirtiness, no ruggedness to make it seem like the wild west. I’ll try to explain it another way using the second most badass British person ever, James Bond (second to Jason Statham of course). If all westerns are James Bond, then The Magnificent Seven is Pierce Brosnan. It’s still cool, and it still kicks ass, it’s just a little too pretty boy to hang with the TRUE Bond, Connery. This movie is a western, and a very cool one, it’s just too pretty to be in the same class as the TRUE westerns. RATING: 7.5 out of 10
Overall, this is a fun, fast paced, badass, and VERY enjoyable movie. If anything, it was nice to see a blockbuster that was about something other than superheroes; a big budget movie about real dudes doing really cool stuff. The main reason to see this movie is to see Denzel in a western. It may not ever happen again so make sure you don’t miss this one. Trust me, Denzel won’t let you down.
That’s all I have for you today. As always, feel free to talk to me in the comments. Let me know your thoughts on The Magnificent Seven, send me some suggestions on what to write about next, or just drop by to say hi. Tell me I’m right, tell me I’m wrong, tell me I suck and you hate me. Whatever your opinion, I would like to hear it. Thanks for reading!