While Antoine Fuqua’s remake of John Sturges’s brilliant remake of Kurosawa’s awesome – in the old sense of the word – film is a perfectly entertaining big budget mainstream western kind of thing (a sentence I’m getting used to having opportunity to write again), it is also a bit of a mess.
Fuqua never seems to be able to decide what kind of film he is actually
making: is it a fun action adventure? A film all about the exciting but
unpleasant violence? A revisionist western that gives people who aren’t white
(and if you squint, even those that aren’t male) their due? A film about what
violence does to the men habitually committing it? A would-be Tarantino western?
The script has perfectly fine scenes belonging to each of these concepts but it
doesn’t even make much of an effort to tie them together into a satisfying
whole, so the film is always lesser than the sum of its parts.
Apart from this main flaw, the filmmaking is another example of Antoine
Fuqua’s position as a director without any visible personality whose movies look
and feel as if they might have been directed by anyone technically competent,
which is increasingly sad when a guy has directed movies since the early 90s and
should have developed something of a style of his own by now. I’m also rather
unhappy with the yellowish colour lying over everything here, a colour obsession
I thought movies had finally gotten over again; for the Western genre, this is a
particularly bad fit, particularly in a film full of shots of grass that’s
supposed to be green (or so I've heard).
I’m also confused why the production went with a mostly utterly indifferent
score by James Horner and Simon Franglen that only comes alive when it’s
directly quoting Elmer Bernstein’s score for the Sturges film? Also about who
thought Vincent D’Onofrio’s (who usually can’t do wrong with me) accent was a
good idea, and last but not least why, when you go with a Tarantino style
talkative neurotic main villain you then don’t take the extra step and give him
decent dialogue (well, monologues, really) nor cast someone who is actually good
at playing this sort of role?
All this does make The Magnificent Seven sound like a worse film
than it actually is. It really is a watchable film, if in a very frustrating