Review of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016 remake)

We saw the 2016 version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN today, not quite a remake. We enjoyed the film, well, *sufficiently*; it was well paced, competently directed, had good to excellent acting in it, and more or less held together. It was however not the cinematic classic the original western was, with Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach–that was a *real movie*, with nothing wasted in it. The original didn’t have anything forced in, it didn’t feel choppily edited. As some have noted, the new one is rather pushily politically correct, in the progressive sense– I’m a liberal Democrat, but that aspect seemed forced, and uneven…In the opening scene there’s a clumsy speech by the villain connecting religion with capitalism, vilifying capitalism per se… Also that first, fairly vicious scene was in several other respects over the top.

Another thing this film is missing –painfully missing–is the original’s romance element, the two young peasants in love, the young man that chooses to stay and be what he thought he didn’t respect–a farmer. The idea that it’s harder to be a farmer than a gunfighter. That was the main sub-text, the main point of the original movie…Also, come to think of it–we never get a sense of the people of the town, as we did in the original. And the heroic young woman in this sort-of remake doesn’t really *go* anywhere as a character.

But it has its good qualities. Denzel Washington was very strong in this, but it bothered me that they didn’t show some of the racial bias toward his character that at least *some* of the townspeople would have had. (I mean, if you want to be politically progressive, show what it was like then, at least a bit.) Hell, you could have had a few of them object to him on that basis and the others say, “Shut up, he’s saving our asses and he’s a good man, I don’t care what color he is.” You know: they’d be realizing that color doesn’t matter–it’s character that matters. But they didn’t mention the issue. There’s one slight hint of racial attitude in Denzel’s first appearance. You see, it wasn’t needed in a movie like, say, THE EQUALIZER because despite some present day racism it’s not anywhere near as pervasive as it was in the old west…I really liked THE EQUALIZER–and racial issues don’t apply in that story. But in a movie set in the old west the issue should have at least come up.

Now I know, in a sense a western like this is a kind of fantasy: In real life, in this situation, the heroes would have killed a few of the bad guys, but that outnumbered, great shots or not, the Magnificent Seven would have been shot to pieces, in their first gunfight in that town…Still, no one wants that in a western like this. If you want to see a naturalistic western, you’re better off with Open Range or Unforgiven or Lonesome Dove…

As a guy who can buy into the fantasy of a high-action western, I went along for the ride. Yes there are so many bullets fired–far more than in the original western, seems to me–the action scenes become a blur. But there are some fun scenes in it–like the one where Chris Pratt’s character is dealing with the two deadbeat guys who jumped him–and some great characters, like Vincent D’onofrio’s character, and especially Ethan Hawke’s PTSD stricken ex-Rebel.

The heroes, also, are somewhat vulgar–and that’s a good thing, as it grounds us, makes us believe maybe they can be authentic western gunfighters who were, in fact, likely to be vulgar a fair amount, especially when getting drunk in a saloon.

Maybe the most entertaining part of the film is the humor that crops up. Pretty effective.

I could tell when something had been cut from the film–you could feel it, a bit too much. Gets choppy in parts. The Mexican character seems a bit under explored in the final cut.

Oh and there’s TOO MUCH GUN TWIRLING in this movie.

One may occasionally think of certain things in Blazing Saddles, watching this…but I won’t go there.

(Yes, I know, it was inspired by The Seven Samurai, but we’re talking about the American Western.)

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