Saturday, September 24, 2016


The original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was a remake of Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI, which itself was based on earlier Hollywood Western tropes, so I suppose you can't fault someone doing a remake of the remake etc. Both earlier movies, the Japanese one and the Western, were dominated by great actors having fun with archetypal gunslinger (and sword wielding and knife throwing) characters.

Especially memorable were Yul Brynner as the lead, Steve McQueen as his second and Eli Wallach as the bad guy, leader of a troop of Mexican bandits. James Coburn and Charles Bronson were also standouts as was Horst Buchholz playing a young Mexican (which required no more suspension of belief, a young German playing a Mexican, than a New York Jewish method actor, Wallach, playing a Mexican bandido!).

In this latest remake, Denzel Washington plays Yul's part and Chris Pratt plays the McQueen role. Ethan Hawke, aging beautifully, and Vincent D'Onofrio are standouts as two of the seven. But the plot is altered to create some sort of metaphor for rapacious capitalism and the lead bad guy becomes a symbolic figure with, unlike Wallach's portrayal, no humor or variety to the role at all.

And while the addition of a more prominent role for a woman, and the inclusion of an Asian-American, a Comanche, and a Mexican creates a more rainbow ensemble, they're mostly written and directed like comic book stereotype heroes rather than actual individuals like in the origin flicks. And that's not the only contemporary touch that reduces the film to almost a Marvel stand in. The over-the-top violence seems like a contemporary tic as well.

Nonetheless, though not a necessary remake and not as great as either SEVEN SAMARAI or the original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, this latest entry in folkloric myth making does somewhat satisfy the need for some cathartic boyish gunslinger (knife thrower, bow and arrow marksman) coolness that had me cheering for the not so bad guys (and woman) to the end.

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