Quick Hit: Taking everything that the original did well, and arguably making it better.
Let me come out and say this right now before I continue to go forward with may not be a popular opinion – I don’t like the decision to take this into the States, and to make the bad guy an evil American capitalist. I missed the bandits, and I missed the random bad guy who is just stealing money and food as opposed to land. That being said, I understand the reason they did so – they were trying to modernize it, because there aren’t too many bandits running around now, and people understand greedy rich guys trying to own land.
That being out of the way, I think that this is a better movie than the original, something that pains me to say.
The main reason? The movie is just more exciting, and has an even better cast. The movie stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio. It also contains Byung-hun Lee, Manual Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier to round out the seven. This movie has an extreme diversity of cast, and it’s nice to see that the movie doesn’t make a big deal of it (despite the fact that the media does). Instead, it allows the quiet moments to tell the story of the men.
I really, really liked the cast and how they worked together. They did an excellent job of meshing and their comedic timing is often perfect. What surprised me the most is just how much I felt like Chris Pratt was hanging on the outside of the film. It’s almost like he was meant to stick out from the film (maybe he was, meant to be a classic “Outsider” type). It’s not until he performs his final redeeming end that you feel like he belongs with the other men.
Those other men are just a thrill to watch. Ethan Hawke has one of his best characters as Goodnight Robicheaux. A man who is suffering from obvious PTSD from the civil war, he is struggling with the deomns of all the things that have turned him into a legend. The comradery that shows between him and Billy Rocks (Lee) is terrific. It’s also fun to see the former Indian killer Jack Horne (D’Onofrio) and the dynamic with Red Harvest (Sensmeier). I didn’t love D’Onofrio’s voice when I first heard it, but now I feel like it was an integral part of the character.
Denzel, once again, shows why he is the best kind of star. Every moment he is on screen he is somehow bigger than the moment. His show down at the end with Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is terrifically drawn out and tense. I really liked this role. And damned if that man doesn’t look great in all black on a horse. I almost feel like this movie is stealing some thunder from the upcoming Dark Tower film starring Idris Elba.
The best part of the movie though is not the actors, surprising. It’s the way the action scenes are put together. Thought the geography of the final fight falls apart instantly, because you can almost never tell how people are getting from one point to the next, you can tell that director Antoine Fuqua has some experience as an action director. Every scene is violent and yet strangely terse, with only the final scene dragging out longer than is necessary. When allowed to focus on the incredible gun feats that these men perform, it’s an extremely entertaining show.
My least favorite part of the movie was the way that Emma Cullen’s character (played by the great Haley Bennett) plays out. For ninety percent of the movie, she shows a transformation into a strong, independent woman that will fight for what is hers, and not be pushed down by men. She doesn’t devolve into a love interest, but instead shows herself a capable killer and rifle shot. BUT… in the final scene she is written into a poorly executed damsel in distress role that completely sends her back to where she was at the beginning of the film. This bait and switch feminism is an example of a writer writing a scene instead of a movie, and it was the worst part.
Well, that and the fact that one of the most fun characters, Manual Garcia-Rulfo’s Vasquez, somehow disappears for large stretches of the movie when a joke is not necessary. I wasn’t a fan of that either.
It doesn’t diminish much though from a movie that is pretty good and very entertaining. I’m giving the Magnificent Seven remake an “B+ “.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: One of the original team up movies predicating all the superhero team ups we currently have today.
There’s not too many genres of movies that I don’t like (ok, spoiler, I can’t think of any off the top of my head I don’t like at all). However, those that have tuned in to my reading once, or maybe at least twice, can easily see that I have my favorites. I love science fiction movies, I adore horror, and movie musicals hold a special spot in my heart. But one of the genres that has almost died off in the past few decades is the Western. We’ve done a few on the site (Hell or High Water could be considered a Western due to its motifs, and of course we did the terrific Huckleberried Tombstone), but in the overall representation, we are a bit lacking.
Therefore, it is my pleasure to bring to you, Dear Reader, a Western and its remake: The Magnificent Seven.
It’s ironic that we continue to talk about how Hollywood is only remaking films and not putting out original stories. I know that I have whined about it several times, and praised movies and films for their original ideas. But it’s interesting to note that it’s not like this is a new practice. Essentially, this movie in 1960 was a remake of a movie called Seven Samurai that came out in 1954. The only difference is that we obviously Americanized it, and made it a classic Western.
Like almost all good Westerns, the movie rests solely on the shoulders of its cast. Like maybe no other genre, Westerns rely on the heroes of the story to provide the variety of the dialogue, often because the villains are dying out too quickly to give you much. This one found two good ones in Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner (who was also in the original Westworld). You wouldn’t be able to tell it by watching the movie, but these two men fought constantly while on set, because Brynner felt as if McQueen was upstaging him. McQueen was constantly fidgeting in all his scenes, but there is a definite uptick when he shares the screen with Brynner. It’s a great dynamic, because both are charismatic, good-looking cowboys, but one is very stoic, while the other is more loose in behavior.
I think what really makes this movie is the vistas and the ride across the border, which essentially sets the tone for the whole film. It’s fun, despite the impending danger the men feel riding into such poor odds. The film is also not afraid to allow characters to die – which is something our current cinematic universes (at least in the comic book world) seem to forget.
The original Magnificent Seven is a classic Western that is a study of camerawork, as well as something that will present you with a tune that will not get out of your head for quite some time. I’m going to give it a “B”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: A terrific modern western that goes further than bad or good, but questions whether morals and issues can exist on both sides of the law.
I don’t have too many westerns in my current movie collection. It’s not that I don’t like them – frankly, I love them – but most of the classic ones are so outdated. As I stated in the Quick Hit, most of the classic westerns draw pretty definitive (and mostly racist) lines as to who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. In most places, that means cowboys are good and Indians (now Native Americans).
Hell or High Water addresses these old movies plenty of times. Once, a cowboy references the fact that it’s the twentieth century, and he’s still sending cows across the road, and it’s no surprise that his kids wouldn’t want to do it. One of the Texas Rangers is a Native American, and the other Ranger jokingly refers to his heritage in a racist way. However, what makes Hell or High Water unique (or at least a good comparison to the excellent No Country for Old Men) is the fact that the film doesn’t draw those definitive lines. Instead, it allows the viewer to make their own conclusions, which allows for quite a bit of grey area.
The movie follows brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard as the begin a bank robbing spree across a small portion of Texas. The brothers are different from each other in some crucial ways – whereas Toby seems reluctant, Tanner seems as if he relishes the opportunity to be doing this. “We’re Comanches little brother”, he yells when riding away.
Another difference is the way they are robbing banks, only taking the small bills from the drawers and only hitting a specific bank. After a few are hit in one day, Texas Rangers Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham) are assigned to the case. Marcus is almost at the mandatory retirement, and it’s clear that the man is so not ready to leave. He doesn’t know what a life of retirement will hold for him.
This film is about several things, but most of all, seems to be about the gentle comraderie that takes place between men. Though Tanner has done several stints in jail, he and his brother Toby obviously have a great report. They may not agree on everything, but it’s the quiet moments between them that shows that brotherly love that is so deep. Marcus and Alberto have this as well, as the business of having long term partnership often brings men closer than brothers. Their not-so-gentle ribbing of each other causes a bit of wincing, but you can tell the love that is involved.
A lot of this comes through from the acting. Across the board I thought it was terrific, with Foster and Bridges giving particularly impressive feats. There is one scene in the movie where Bridges exhibits gusto, bravado, fear, sorrow, anger, relief, and happiness within the span of ten minutes. It’s no wonder the man is up for an Academy Award. Foster is terrific in coming across as just crazy enough to have everything be believable. He also has a number of soft moments in the beginning of the film that show more motivations than just being off his rocker
The dialogue is also terrific. I’ve mentioned a number of times how the different men verbally joust with each other, but it’s some of the side characters that have exceptional dialogue. There’s a waitress that makes you reach out your heart to her, a bank teller with a biblical side, and a waitress that will absolutely make you crack up. I couldn’t believe how well this painted a picture of the American South. It’s also telling that other side characters are present for “old fashioned lynchings” and things of that sort, and that a cautious respect is given to the Texas Rangers. Makes me miss Chuck Norris.
The last thing I wanted to touch on was the cinematography in general. Often framed in takes that start large and end small, you can often see things when the characters are traveling reflecting the state of Texas in general (we’ll just pretend this wasn’t filmed in New Mexico). You can see the run down nature, and it makes the men’s justification for robbing the only standing buildings in town seem… more acceptable, let’s say. These shots are beautiful and are brought together by the action of the camera.
Overall, this is a great movie that I’ll highly recommend. It is up for Best Picture, Best Supportin Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Original Screenplay (Taylor Sheridan), and Best Film Editing (Jake Roberts). Overall from me, I’m going to give it an “A-“.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"