DATELINE: The Non-Remake
Will Smith and Denzel Washington seem to make alternating good and bad movies. Sometimes it is hard to tell which one we are watching.
Denzel chose to remake The Magnificent Seven, a brilliant 1960 Western with Elmer Bernstein’s stirring, quintessential music score.
This time they kept the title and threw away almost everything else.
Why bother to keep the title? The audience for this film never saw the Yul Brynner-Steve McQueen classic—or the Kurosawa source The Seven Samurai.
Filmmaker Antoine Fuqua built in self-destruction by so obviously stealing a title and fond memories of the original(s). This infuriates the true followers, and plays up to the young audience who know nothing about what they are missing.
This movie version seems so familiar on every level: gathering together the sociopaths to save a town, now a mining location under the control of mousy Peter Sarsgaard who spent the pre-credits scenes attempting to establish what rats robber barons could be.
This is a pale rider script—not much effort or creative thought went into the screenplay. It expected the charming cast to carry the heavy weight.
Indeed, the cast has its singular performers—from Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke to Vincent D’Onofrio (this time playing a fat old trapper and Indian killer).
The motley crew, even disparagingly called ‘strays’ by the bad guys, have a big first-hour set-up to show their mettle. But, this group is the sort that brings a knife and arrow to a gunfight. Yes, there is a sort of Ninja in this new progressive Seven—and a last of the Comanche tribe type to round out the stereotypes.
Several of the magnificent ones seem to be consenting adults, but this is a modernized version with political correctness at the trigger finger.
The film was universally panned by critics, but actually it is workmanlike. How could it not have some merit, simply out of the stellar actors in their roles?
If you love Westerns, you take whatever you are given nowadays. This one could be worse—yes, we were prepared for terrible and received passable. Call it The Okay Seven.