Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Magnificent Seven” Remade for Third Time
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

You’ll recognize the music from all those Marlboro commercials. But older moviegoers will remember the swelling strands as being Elmer Bernstein’s iconic theme for “The Magnificent Seven,” the John Sturges Western about a group of hired gunslingers who protect a Mexican village from banditos.

Turns out, director Antoine Fuqua has given us a remake. The same-named movie is currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

The Hollywood Reporter proclaims: “The big difference between the new version of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters.”

Okay, we’ll give them that -- kinda. In Fuqua’s remake, the leader of the seven mercenaries is played by African-American actor Denzel Washington. In the John Sturges Western that role was handled by a White Russian, Yul Brynner.

Ethnic differentiation also can be used to describe the Sturges film, for it was a redo of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic, “Seven Samurai.” In it, the characters were all Japanese. A wandering ronin (Takashi Shimura) gathers six other samurai to help him defend a village from bandits.

Kurosawa based the seven major characters on historical samurai. Then he wrote a complete profile for each character, including details about what they wore, their favorite foods, their speech patterns, and scores of other details. He even created a dossier on all 101 residents of the village, including a family tree to help the extras understand their characters’ relationships to each other.

This film is often described as the greatest Japanese film ever made.

The 1960 remake by Sturgis featured then-unknown actors Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Brad Dexter, Horst Buchholz, and Robert Vaughn. The new version offers upfront better-known stars.

Just like in the earlier version, a black-clad gunslinger (Denzel Washington) recruits a group of social misfits to help him protect a town. These miscreants include a charming cardsharp (Chris Pratt), a Confederate sharpshooter (Ethan Hawke), a grizzly mountain man (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Korean assassin (Byung-hun Lee), a swarthy outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche warrior (Martin Sensmeier).

In another ethnic shift, the new version features Peter Sarsgaard as the mining baron whose armed goons are killing off any residents of Rose Creek who refuse to sell their land to him. Unlike the ‘60s, it’s no longer political appropriate to have a Mexican villain.

But as the Hollywood Reporter observes, “The actors in the Sturges film oozed far more attitude” than this new cast.

Antoine Fuqua was obviously gambling on reuniting his Oscar-winning “Training Day” cast (Washington and Hawke) to pull off this remake. However, this is not titled “The Magnificent Two.” Chemistry between seven actors is harder to deliver.

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