Do you remember that scene toward the end of “Django: Unchained” where Jamie Foxx is hanged by his feet and Walton Goggins nearly cuts off Foxx’s testicles with a massive, red hot knife? That scene kind of reminds me of Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” remake. I say “kind of” because “The Magnificent Seven” reminds me of that scene if, and only if, Goggins was successful.
Much like Foxx in that imagined scenario, “The Magnificent Seven” is neutered, difficult to watch and sort of just hangs around pointlessly until it expires in a predictable, anti-climactic way.
As “The Magnificent Seven” opens, we’re introduced to Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue, a cruel robber baron who speaks in indecipherable platitudes about how capitalism and God are intertwined in America and it’s good and it’s bad and it’s making a point? I guess?
At any rate, Bogue and his private army massacre most of the citizens of a small mining town including the husband of homesteader Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett). With vengeance on her mind, Emma enlists the aid of a bounty hunter, Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who in turn, enlists the aid of six additional rogues and ne’er-do-wells. There’s a guy (Chris Pratt) who’s really good at card tricks, a man (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) whose personality is defined by the fact he’s Mexican, a man (Vincent D’Onofrio) with a beard who perpetually sounds like he’s talking through a yawn, a man (Martin Sensmeier) whose personality is defined by the fact he’s a Native American, a man (Byung-hun Lee) whose personality isn’t defined by the fact he’s Asian but by the fact he really likes knives and Ethan Hawke. The motivations behind these characters are murky and ill-defined, they join forces to murder several horses (and some men) in the confusingly edited third act.
“The Magnificent Seven” takes place in some bizarre version of the Old West. From the looks of this movie, people seemed to have evolved from sweat, blood and mounds of matted dog hair, but still have the kind of dazzling smiles that imply Crest Whitening Strips have always been with us. Almost as inexplicable as the sea of capped teeth that engulfs this movie are the uncharacteristically progressive attitudes of its characters. This movie isn’t just progressive for its 1800s setting, it’s progressive for 2016. I shouldn’t be watching a man in a cowboy hat with an infected eye socket and think to myself “I hope that will be America one day” just because he managed to keep all of his bullets to himself when an unfamiliar black guy wandered into his town.
Admittedly these are petty, pedantic gripes. The main issue with “The Magnificent Seven” is that it’s generic, poorly paced and wallows in the same clichés that “Blazing Saddles” mocked 40-some years ago. “Magnificent Seven” isn’t a film to be watched it’s a distraction you mostly ignore while visiting an elderly relative at a nursing home.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘The Magnificent Seven’
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Hayley Bennett, Denzel Washington, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Weekender Rating: WV
Length: 133 minutes