Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Magnificent Seven (2016)

Second cinematic western remake of Kurosowa's classic THE SEVEN SAMURAI  is a largely enjoyable mixed bag.  While nowhere near as bad as some reviews made it out to be, it's also nowhere near as a good as either of the earlier classics.

The plot of the film has a literal robber baron named Bartholomew Bogue tormenting a town on the road to his mines in remote valley. He wants the land to expand his mine and instead of paying everyone what it's worth he'll give them a token payment or kill them outright. He feels he can take whatever he wants. After her husband is killed a young woman hires a group of gunman, headed by a man named Chisolm  to defend the town and kill the robber baron.

A broadly drawn plot is nicely filled in thanks to a group of actors working at the top of their game. Make no mistake the reason the film works even as the plot sputters along along is that the cast of gunmen Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier make their characters people we care for. Trust me the shading these great actors give their characters will break your heart as they begin to die in the climatic battle. I could argue that D'Onofrio and Hawke turn in some of their best work of their careers which is saying a great deal.

The problem with the film is it feels about 45 minutes too short. Too many details are left out or fleetingly mentioned. There is a sense of a whole world of back story missing from the film. Either the writers took a short hand approach to everything, including a villain who is simply a series of stock evil traits or the film was heavily chopped by the studio.

The other problem with the film is that there are several plot points that make no sense. Why would there be a town in a valley with only one way in? Why would the villain want the town gone when it could help his mine since it could service his miners? Where are all the homes for the townsfolk? How can the Gatling gun riddle the entire town from a fixed position? More importantly how can it reach the town when it is so far far away? It was those last two that caused me to really throw up my hands.

The plotting is a real mess...

...and yet the film remains entertaining. Thanks, as I said above to the work of the actors who make the gunmen people we care about and whom we shed a tear over when they die.

Also the film has a great series of set pieces including the final hour long siege of the town. say what you will the motion helps a great deal.

This is a solid piece of filmmaking. While not nearly as good as previous versions, it is entertaining , and it does possess some truly great moments.

Defnitely worth a look see.

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