The Magnificent Seven is better than the film that it’s remaking in many ways; but when you’re talking about how it stands up with the original source material of Seven Samurai, it’s already been eclipsed by the incredible 13 Assassins.
The Hollywood aesthetic weakens the impact of the Western. In a post Deadwood world, if your frontier towns don’t have muck in the thoroughfare, pigs, and hell even a ‘specialist’ who only pays your local tavern’s prostitutes to line up for a ‘fly by’ breast lick, then you’re doing it wrong. Antoine Fuqua should be credited with one truly magnificent scene in the film. The first showdown between the bad guy’s men in Rose Creek and our newly assembled team is tremendous. Coming straight from the playbook of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, Fuqua ratchets up tension with shot after shot of his team warily glaring at their foes, building toward a firefight for the rule of the town.
The final explosive showdown of the film has immense scale and some particularly brutal tumbles and deaths. It’s a kind of unrelenting that works much better as it continues and adds breadth to the character moments.
Writing contribution by Nic Pizzolatto immediately forced me to adjust my thoughts of the potential of the film. For a man who created the “Yellow King,” it’s somewhat devastating to see what villain we arrived at. While it’s tempting to derail this review to discuss all the reasons why 13 Assassins has already honoured Seven Samurai better than any Western derivation could; it would be unfair to you dear readers and the filmmakers. However, there’s a necessary comparison between the antagonists of each film. In 13 Assassins, Gorô Inagaki’s
Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira is a vile psychopath, who will not only pillage and rape your populace, but has a penchant for mutilating the daughters of his vanquished foes into limbless sex slaves (Boxing Helena style). In the opening sequence, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) wants to drive the townsfolk out, kill anyone who disagrees and proceeds to set fire to a church. Greed and a bit of murder, by comparison, doesn’t seem menacing.
The Magnificent Seven validates one thing; there’s only one Denzel Washington. Despite questionable dialogue and some precarious turns of narrative that he has to navigate, he’s a force in the film. Playing the cowboy, he has a level of confidence and cool that makes him feel deadly. The choices for him to be adorned in black and have a glossy-black stallion (no that’s not a Washington nickname but it should be) to ride adds to the stature of the character.
Chris Pratt’s Josh Faraday brings the funny and the cheek. There’s a charming appeal to foil for Washington’s Chisolm. He’s also trying to remain competitive with his counterparts for kills and braggadocio. There are a few Pratt zingers, with an improvisational feel, that dart out of the bland exchanges. Vincent D’Onofrio portrayal of Jack Horne takes a lead from Benicio del Toro in The Usual Suspects and turns a bland role into something intriguing, strange and hilarious with off the wall choices in delivery. Ethan Hawke and Washington together again is sensational, and their chemistry hasn’t waned whatsoever. Hawke’s Goodnight Robicheaux is a marksman from the ‘wrong’ side of the U.S Civil War. Suffering from PTSD he lets his partner, Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks (who really impresses), and his lightning knife throws do the talking for the both of them. Martin Sensmeier’s Red Harvest does a good job the stoic lone wolf; and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s Vasquez is probably the ‘player’s player’ of the team; competing with Pratt’s Faraday and delivering the goods in the action.
Denzel is magnificent; toothless villains don’t deserve superhero team ups.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written by: Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto
Denzel Washington … Chisolm
Chris Pratt … Josh Faraday
Ethan Hawke … Goodnight Robicheaux
Vincent D’Onofrio … Jack Horne
Byung-hun Lee … Billy Rocks
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo … Vasquez
Martin Sensmeier … Red Harvest
Haley Bennett … Emma Cullen
Peter Sarsgaard … Bartholomew Bogue
Luke Grimes … Teddy Q
Matt Bomer … Matthew Cullen