Now onto the film that came out two weeks ago.
I don’t watch that many Westerns, mainly because I tend to stick to Speculative Fiction, but the few I have seen I like: True Grit, Hateful Eight, A Fistful of Dollars. Hell, one of my favourite TV shows of all time is The Rifleman. I mean, it’s not Top 10, but definitely Top 20. I think it has something to do with the fact that Westerns tend to occupy the same Century or So Long Historical Wheelhouse of Interest of mine that the Victorian Era resides in, having happened during the same time period.
I have never seen the original Magnificent Seven or the original Seven Samurai it was based on, but I’ve heard they’re both phenomenal works of film and they’ve been in my queue for forever.
When an industrialist named Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard, threatens a small 1879 Western mining town and kills her husband, woman named Emma Cullen, played by Haley Bennet, and her friend hire a warrant officer named Samuel Chisolm, played by Denzel Washington, with everything their town owns to defend them. Chisolm rounds up six other gunslingers, including Chris Pratt as the Han Solo-esce Josh Faraday, to help him. Together, they must train the townsfolk to defend their town and stop the oncoming wave of men that Bogue has brought.
Can I just say first off that I like this director? I mean, I haven’t seen any of Antoine Fuqua’s other work and the only other thing I know him from is King Arthur where Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen first met, but I love what he did with this remake in terms of the casting. The Old West wasn’t just filled with white cowboys like we see in movies. There were plenty of African American cowboys, Asian immigrants, and Native Americans. Usually only the latter show up in films and hardly ever in a way that’s not a stereotype. Not only making the lead Denzel Washington, but pushing for not only more minorities, but also that the female lead has more to do? I love that!
I should really be comparing Chris Pratt’s character more to Steve McQueen, the universal symbol of cinema badassitude before Han Solo was ever invented. He gambles, he drinks, he can shoot with the best of them, and he loves blowing things right the hell up. How can you not love a character like that, the roguish charm characters you just wanna punch in real life.
Since apparently Washington hasn’t made a overall agreed good movie since Flight, I can assure you that he’s in top form here. His personality compared to the rest is the more somber one and it’s good to have the straight man in a cast such as this. However, he’s also consoling when he needs to be and makes a good speech. I haven’t seen a lot of Washington’s work so I can’t say if it’s his best performance, but it’s definitely a good one.
Ethan Hawke’s Goodnight Robicheaux: I like this guy from Gattaca and his performance here is why. Though I don’t remember it from the film itself, must have been thrown out briefly, Robicheaux is a former Confederate soldier suffering from some major PTSD, which is why he has this little gun show business partnership/ bromance thing with Billy. Robicheaux is good with his words, but when it comes to killing people, he’s got issues. I imagine some of that has to come from being on the losing side of a major war.
Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks: Easily my favourite character. Guy with knives at a gunfight. Gets in some good lines. How much more fun can you get? Billy rocks! …That was bad and I should feel bad. Point is, I liked Lee’s performance here and really want to see more of his work in the future. If anyone has recommendations, please let me know.
Vincent D’Onofrio’s James Horne: you can’t even tell that he also plays Fisk in Daredevil, it’s a completely different performance. What do I have to say about Vincent D’Onofrio? The guy’s amazing, but his role doesn’t amount to much here.
Wow, all the actors are the same race as their characters are said to be…even the Native American…that’s rare. Usually, especially with Native American characters, unless a character is African descended or sometimes Asian, characters said to be a races such as Middle Eastern, Hispanic, etc, are played by Caucasian actors, usually being played as being biracial or ignoring it all together (that last one happens a lot in book adaptations). I was really surprised to find out that Vasquez and Red Harvest were played by a Mexican and Native American actor respectively. I was also really happy.
This also means I have to talk about Red Harvest. I know nothing about the Camanche or the various Native American tribes in general (I have only a passing understanding of minor aspects of the Algonquin and Hopi cultures as I’ve done research on them out of post read/watch curiosity), so I can’t say if their portrayal of Red Harvest is stereotypical or offensive or not and I haven’t seen many Native Americans in things I’ve watched to compare. Someone of actual Camanche decent, please tell us in the comments, but I’ve long accepted the idea that we can’t trust Hollywood when it come to portrayals of Native Americans. Though considering the director isn’t just another white guy, I’m willing to extend a bit more benefit of doubt. This is not a criticism on the Martin Sensmeier’s acting, mind you. He’s good, especially considering he’s doing most of his performance not speaking English.
It should be noted that this was composer James Horner’s final score begun before his death last year. While he didn’t finish it, it was completed by his friend Simon Franglen who was also his sound producer and knew his work. While I don’t pay attention to the music much, I will say I am glad they kept what he started and built on it instead of bringing on someone else to replace him. Rest in Peace James. I will always remember you as the guy who scored the best Star Trek movie and who co-gave us ‘Come Little Children’ from Hocus Pocus.
The story is, of course, a retelling of Seven Samurai, but as a Western. A group of fighters are hired to help protect a village of farmers from a large group of bandits. It’s as simple as it gets, it works well as a cowboy story as well as a samurai story. There’s a reason this story was remade in the first place back in 1960. The main differences being that the bad guys aren’t bandits, it’s a wealthy business man and his henchmen, the farmers are miners, and the female lead, Emma, actually participates in the fight and isn’t just the love interest. She and Chris Pratt flirt, sure, but the poor lady’s still mourning the death of her husband. She’s not interested in finding another man. Because the story’s so simple, the film mainly relies on the action and character interactions. The entire last third of the movie is one long fight scene and it’s great. No shaky cam, just steady action and editing the whole way through. It was such a relief to actually see what was happening.
If I had a bone with this movie, it’d be that Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s outlaw Vasquez isn’t really given much to do outside of gunfighting and trading verbal blows with Chris Pratt about the two being Mexican and Irish respectively.. He’s probably the weakest of the characters, but he’s still good.
As I haven’t seen either the original Magnificent Seven or the original Seven Samurai (I’ve only seen a few episodes of the anime remake Samurai 7 some years ago), I can’t say whether this is as good as them. Going by remake standards, I’ll say probably not, but this and the Dredd movie are probably some of the few remakes to get close to, on par, or surpass the original. Up there with Scarface. …Yeah, that was a remake.
It’s a fun movie and definitely worth your time, especially if you like Westerns. Go check it out.
Saturday, we’ll be talking about Miss Peregrine.
On an unrelated topic: I just found out what happens in the latest installment of one of my favourite anime series. I’m not gonna go into specifics, but I will summarize it as thus: …………………………………………GOD DAMN IT, GENNAI! WHAT THE FUCK! !!?