Lately, Mek and I haven’t had much luck with our Netflix picks, at least, not the DVD ones. Even my silly Batman/Superman cartoon was kind of disappointing. We’d hoped that Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven might finally break the curse.
Alas. We were to be disappointed once again.
This will be a Baby Review, as I really don’t have time for anything more than that right now. As such, there will be SPOILERS throughout.
1. Ideally, I’d like to take some time and compare this to the original The Magnificent Seven (or to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai) but I’m afraid I cannot, not because I haven’t seen both films, but because their plot-specific details just refuse to stay in my brain. That’s not so surprising in the case of Seven Samurai, as it’s been over ten years since I’ve seen the movie, but I feel like I should at least remember if Yul Brynner makes it in the original TM7, right? I don’t know, man. My brain is a tricksy traitor.
Regardless of my poor memory, I feel confident when I say that the 2016 Magnificent Seven is easily the worst of the bunch. Which isn’t to say it’s an awful movie, exactly, just poorly paced with a lot of missed opportunities.
2. Let’s discuss characters:
Look, I’m all about seeing Denzel as a cowboy. Like, who doesn’t want that? Westerns might not be my go-to, but I actually love many of the genre’s tropes, and I’d really love to see Westerns that feature more PoC and/or women. Denzel’s casting was a big reason I wanted to see this movie in the first place . . . but if you’re gonna cast him, like, you have to do something with him, right? The man’s got serious range. USE IT. Don’t just give him a five-second, predictable, family-of-refrigerated-women backstory and call it a day. So much more could have been done with Chisolm’s character.
Pratt’s sort of cornered the market on slightly egotistical jackasses ultimately working for the Force of Good, but where that works for me in the GotG movies, here I’m less enamored. I pretty actively disliked Faraday. And yeah, you can say that not every character needs to be likable, and I’d agree to an extent. I’d also say that when he predictably blows himself up for the cause, I didn’t give a good goddamn.
Goodnight Robicheaux & Billy Rocks
Ethan Hawke & Lee Byung-hun
So, this is our Dynamic Duo. To no great surprise, Goodnight and Billy are my favorite characters, partially because dynamic duos are pretty much always destined to become fan favorites, but also because I’ve pretty much been in love with Lee Byung-hun since watching The Good, The Bad, The Weird years ago.
Of course, this means they’re both destined to die.
Dynamic duos (in ensemble casts) are tricky to predict. They can both survive, but that seems rare. Usually, they either die together, or one dies while the other lives on without them. Early on, when Mek and I were making bets on which characters would survive, we both figured Goodnight would make it while Billy was inevitably doomed. (Seriously, that was never in question. The one Asian person in an action and/or horror ensemble? Yeah, they don’t tend to make it very long, a trope I’d love to see broken immediately.)
Goodnight’s survival seemed much less likely after he abandoned the team, of course, because we all knew he’d come back and thus die a redemptive death for leaving in the first place. But I stuck to my guns anyway because second-guessing yourself and then getting it wrong is the worst. Alas, Goodnight and Billy both died within seconds of each other, which is too bad because their relationship was easily my favorite part of this movie.
It’s also important to note that despite being wrong about Goodnight, I totally beat Mekaela in the ‘Which Characters Will Survive’ game. Let’s just all be absolutely clear on that.
Jack Horne & Red Harvest
Vincent D’Onofrio & Martin Sensmeier
Jack Horne is an old geezer/mountain man dude who likes to collect scalps, which seems like it’s gonna put him at odds with Red Harvest, the badass Comanche on the team, but . . . never really does? It’s weird. The movie sort of sets up the conflict, but then just lets it fizzle away into nothing, and ultimately never really does much with either of these two characters. Red Harvest, in particular, gets very little to do, though I was happy to see that he at least survived.
Horne, meanwhile, does not. He’s actually the very first to go. More importantly, D’Onofrio makes some curious acting choices in this movie, namely, he puts on a Super Old Man voice, like it’s sort of shrill and cracks all over the place and is exactly the kind of voice you’d imagine an 80-year-old man using while sitting in his rocking chair, telling the young whippersnappers what life in the Wild West was like. So, it’s kind of fitting? But also hopelessly impossible to take seriously?
Vasquez is the Mexican of the group and not much else. This is kind of a constant failing of the movie: while there is more diversity here than in most westerns, the movie also doesn’t really allow the characters much time or space to be anything other than The Mexican or The Native American or The Asian Guy. (Speaking of The Asian Guy: it seems weird to me that Billy Rocks is described more than once as “petite”, even though according to Google, Lee Byung-hun is 5’10,” which isn’t actually short, not even by white dude standards. Was the line written before the role was cast or something?) Considering he’s the lead, Denzel Washington gets a little bit more to play with than just The Black Gunslinger, but honestly, not that much more. I expected better.
The only thing particularly interesting about Vasquez is that he doesn’t die. I’ll admit, I was pretty shocked. I had that guy pegged for death, like, immediately.
Ah, the one woman. Or should I say, the one white woman. The diversity of this cast does not actually extend to women of color, which is obviously unfortunate.
To no one’s great shock, I’m sure, Emma is pretty boring. She’s almost as boring as the guy who’s always with her–and boy was that dude vanilla. He’s so vanilla, in fact, that I can’t even be bothered to look up his name or how he was related to her. A friend? A brother? A dude with an unrequited crush? I know he wasn’t her dead husband, anyway, because that guy was Matt Bomer. Him, I remember.
Emma could have been cool. She’s got her dead husband and a mission, and I want to like her. Unfortunately, she’s got maybe one good line (the “I’ll take revenge” one) and one cool moment (she kills Big Bad Bogue before he can kill Chisolm). Otherwise, that’s pretty much it; she’s mostly around to get rescued or look vaguely disturbed at all the gunslingers’ less than gentlemanly manners. Even her one cool moment isn’t nearly as badass as I’d like it to be, considering she looks all sad and tragic about it.
Also pretty boring. We get this big introduction for him, right, where he frightens the townspeople and kills Matt Bomer and speaks ominously to a small child–but for all that, he’s not particularly menacing or intimidating. I don’t need every villain to be three-dimensional, but if we’re going to spend this much time with the dude, he needs to be vastly more interesting and/or fun.
3. Finally, The Magnificent Seven is 2 hours and 13 minutes long. I suspect it could be an hour and 55, easy. At the very least, it could be a much more entertaining and evenly paced two-plus hours.
I don’t know where it went wrong, exactly. The movie just kind of drags, and while a slow build works for some films, this really just isn’t that kind of story. The opener takes too long. Meeting the characters, specifically Chris Pratt, takes too long. I want more time with most of our heroes as a team. The Big Fight is mostly okay (everyone loves a gatling gun!), but could have used one or two more Moments of Awesome. And the epilogue is so rushed that our heroes don’t even fucking bury their dead; they just ride off, leaving the people of Rose Creek the unenviable job of digging graves for Goodnight, Billy, Faraday, and Jack.
Dudes. That’s cold, right? Apparently, there is no ‘I’ in team, but there is an ‘I’ in ‘Shit, digging holes is hard work, so to hell with it, let’s just leave the bodies to rot, right? The townspeople will probably take care of it. Either way, it’s their problem now!’
Chisolm, man. I expected better of you.
Goodnight: “This reminds me of what my daddy always used to say.”
Billy: “What’s that, Goody?”
Goodnight: “. . . well, you know, my daddy said a lot of things.”
Guy: “Goodnight Robicheaux? Sir, if I’d known that was your man, I never would have spoken so disrespectfully.”
Goodnight: “That’s all right, son. You can just pay me double.”
Chisolm: “So you seek revenge?”
Emma: “I seek righteousness, as should we all. But I’ll take revenge.”
Goodnight: “What a merry band, we are. Me a Grey, Chisolm a Blue, Billy a mysterious man of the Orient, a drunk Irishman, a Texican, a female, and her gentlemen caller. This is not going to end well.”
Vasquez: “I’m Mexican, cabrón. No such thing as a ‘Texican’.”
Goodnight: “Try telling that to my granddaddy. He died at the Alamo. New Orleans Greys, long barracks, bayonets. Blood, teeth. Mauled by a horde of teeming brown devils.”
Vasquez: “My grandfather was one of those devils, you know. Toluca Battalion. Hey, maybe my grandfather killed your grandfather, huh?”
Goodnight: “What a charming thought. I sense we are bonding.”
Vasquez: “Where’s your gun?”
Sam: “Man carries a gun, he tends to use it.”
Meh. I mean, I’ve definitely seen worse westerns, but this just could have been so much more fun.
Yeah, I’m going with favoritism and saying Lee Byung-hun. I like him a lot in this movie, actually: deadpan, badass, and trying to help out his emotionally traumatized friend. I just wish we’d gotten a lot more of him.
Sometimes you’ve gotta stand up and do the right thing, even if the odds are totally against you. Not all the time, though. Basically just if you have the chance to avenge your family. Otherwise, be honest: you’d probably just have kept walking, right? Right.