Monday, October 3, 2016
The Magnificent Seven 
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review
The Magnificent Seven  (directed by Antoine Fuqua, screenplay by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto based on screenplay for The Seven Samurai  by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni) while perhaps improving the rather still rather racist underpinnings of the 1960 version (where the heroes were basically "white guys" and both the poor / largely "defenseless" victims and _especially_ the villains were "south of the border darker complected Mexicans" ...), quite shockingly (honestly) with the single clear exception of a "righteousness seeking" heroine, a widow named Emma Cullen (played by Haley Bennett), who in the film actually hires the Seven to bring justice to her town, _every_ woman in the film (every last one) is either anonymous or a prostitute and usually both. It's really a stunning oversight -- reducing "the women folk" in the film basically to the status of being props -- especially since at least _part of the drive_ to "re-tell this story" was almost certainly to correct the rather lazy / unreflective racism of the 1960 version. But there it is ... what were the film's producers thinking? I asked the same question regarding the stupid unthinking racism of Despicable Me 2  (an otherwise utterly adorable film with the single exception that BOTH of the villains in that story were Mexicans, one with hygiene issues ... sigh, WHY?? Didn't the makers of that film realize that 1/3 of their audience would have otherwise been ADORABLE HISPANIC KIDS?? Here, M7-2016 becomes a really odd sort of a "date movie" -- where younger couples could perhaps discuss if one or both still really believed that women even today should strive to "just shut up and look pretty / slutty." Sigh ... once again, WHY?)
So ... aside from that ... what else to say about the movie? ;-)
The Mag 7 here becomes quite racially diverse -- including a stately / imposing African American lawman Chisolm (played by Denzel Washington), his friends, a former Confederate sniper (played by a goateed Ethan Hawke) and a card playing / whiskey drinking good-ole-boy (played by Chris Pratt) who've in turn befriended a dagger-wielding Samarai-ish Asian immigrant (played by Brung-hun Lee) and Mexican Zoro-ish outlaw (played by Manuel Garcia-Ruflo) and then a still-scalp-collecting relic of a mountain man (played by Vincent D'Onofrio) and a bow-and-arrow Native American Comanche prodigy (played by Martin Sensmeier) who had been told by his elders that he "just doesn't fit in" ;-). Again, too bad the _only_ women around seem to be period-corset-wearing hookers... and then THE ONE RIGHTEOUS WOMAN just wanting Justice (though she'd "settle for vengeance if only that were possible" ...).
Then though following current PG-13 conventions that seem to allow almost unlimited amount of mayhem / destruction so long as minimal blood is shown, I honestly was surprised the film was rated PG-13. In spirit it's certainly an R.
Finally Christian religion has a surprising (and IMHO problematic) presence in this film. Very quickly the film's chief villain (played by Peter Sarsgaard) literally a "Robber Baron" (stealing the land of the honest poor and rendering women widows and children orphans) declares himself to be merely "a Capitalist doing God's Will." Thank you very much. Yes, there were ALWAYS nutjobs like this in American history, from the Robber Barons of the Old West to some of their spiritual descendants today. However, THANKFULLY the film seems to improve upon its theology as the story progresses. Both African American lawman Chisolm and the widowed honest woman Haley offer more honest / morally sound interpretations of traditional Christian faith. Still, I do believe that a lot people of faith will be simply appalled by chief villain's initial announcement and if not leave the theater outright, certainly shut the film-off in their minds from then on.
So what then would be my "final judgement" on this obviously quite flawed remake? In general "yuck." It's a film that will offend both _many women_ and _many Christians_ and while not drenched in blood, that's only because the current rating system allows violent film-makers to have it both ways -- allowing them to "shoot up a storm" and pretend that the bullets flying everywhere don't have any consequences. The film's a lie.
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