Heard about this remake probably two years ago, then kind of forgot it exists. Never cared who’s in it, who’s behind it. Until two days ago, when I caught the movie’s final third. Or should I say, it caught me—off guard—as I found myself transported right in the middle of Rose Creek in the heat of the battle, running for cover dodging bullets cowering behind the couch when bullets from the Gatling gun came flying about.
Initially confused and kind of lost, I thought what new Western movie could this be? Is this The Hateful Eight? The new Deadwood movie perhaps? For sure it isn’t The Ridiculous 6. I saw that Adam Sandler movie. It was a bit funny and a whole lotta awful. Or is this The Kid, with Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke in it? But Pratt’s not playing the heavy and there’s no sign of Dane De Haan, so this must be something else. A quick search confirmed that it’s The Magnificent Seven, the 2016 remake of a remake, directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Tears of the Sun).
Leading the seven is Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington), an African-American US Marshal, who’s also the updated version of Yul Brenner’s robotic cowboy from Westworld. Pratt, Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Korean actor Byung-hun Lee, Alaska Native Martin Sensmeier, and the Mexican Manuel Garcia-Rulfo round up the remaining six.
If you’ve seen Seven Samurai, or the 1960 version, you know the basic plot of this movie. There are even scenes where the Seven walks around town planning how they’d defend and fortify it against their enemy just like in Seven Samurai. Bandits in the old movies were updated for a greedy industrialist played by Peter Sarsgaard, who subjects the people of Rose Creek into forced labor in his mines and killed a few rebellious locals. One of them killed was the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), who then seeks Chisholm’s help to liberate her people.
Some people thought this was unnecessary. Some says it didn’t, couldn’t, match the 1960 original. Well, not me. And while I haven’t seen the 1960 version (NOT an original, since it is also a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai) I could say this new version is a welcome update of the old one, with a more diverse cast and more explosive gunfights.
Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks is good with both guns and knives, “the guy with the hairpin” one character jokingly refers to him once. Martin Sensmeier’s Comanche warrior Red Harvest brings bow and arrows to the mix. And Chris Pratt, who’s still plays Star-Lord’s “100% a dick” is the gambler, and he has a knack for blowing things up. I almost forgot that Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington beat the shit out of each other in Training Day. This time, they’re fighting on the same side. And they have to fight an army.
As a fan of action films, here’s what I have to say: Watching movies has never felt this thrilling and terrifying in quite a long time. Which only makes sense, since the last movies I saw were mostly comic book movies. Not to take away anything from those comic book movies, but they’re mostly kiddie pool entertainment.
Some say superhero movies are the Westerns of today. In a nutshell, a group of supes teaming up to defend the universe from Thanos and his army isn’t really all that different from a bunch gunslingers defending a town from a greedy businessman and his private army. Or a bunch of samurais defending a town from a group of bandits.
But there’s a BIG difference between a gritty action movie with high stakes and all too real character deaths and an action-packed movie that’s tailor-made to please everyone, from the casual moviegoer to the most hardcore of fans, a movie tailor-made to bring in everyone, from your war veteran granddaddy down to your six-year old son. With the latter, the action scenes suffer, and the movie goes down to the level of Disney Junior-safe.
There’s a difference between showing men dying horrible deaths in battle and having an icon like Tony Stark sacrifice himself just because their kiddie strategy of keeping the Gauntlet away from Thanos didn’t quite worked and because he’s destined to die anyway according to some guy named Doctor Strange because that’s the only way they could win. (Also, because Marvel couldn’t keep him employed any longer.) Nevermind that they have the Time Stone. Nevermind that the combined effort of Captain Marvel and Scarlet Witch could have easily destroyed one or two Infinity Stones and Thanos’ plan to “snap me baby one more time” goes kaput.
Sure, there’s some magical fanboy moments when Captain America finally lifts and wields the Mjolnir in the nick of time or when Iron Man tricked Thanos, but, on a second thought, just give me Kenshin Himura vs. Shishiyo Makoto instead. The two-part Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends make for a more compelling watch than Infinity War and Endgame end-to-end.
Which makes you wonder, that in the face of defeat against their most AND ONLY formidable foe, all the brightest and greatest in Avengers could come up with, is a game of take away. Would it not make more sense for the heroes to surround the gauntlet rather than run with it? What happened to the brilliant minds of Banner, Stark and Strange? Yeah, a game of takeaway would be easier for kids. WHAT THE FUCK Marvel?! I waited 22 movies, 10 years, and all you come up with for a climax is THIS?!
Avengers: Endgame? Shazam? Spider-Man? Captain Marvel? All kiddie pool entertainment. I don’t know how many times I rolled my eyes while watching safer than safe fight scenes and climactic battles with minimum to zero consequence. Give me something with BALLS! Give me The Magnificent Seven or something like it ANY GIVEN SUNDAY.
And a bucket of beer, please. And roasted highland legumes on a plate.