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NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: Denzel Washington takes over Yul Brenner’s black hat as Sam Chisolm, the number one gun who leads six other gun(and knife and bow & arrow)-slingers to help the downtrodden farmer-folk Rose Creek take their tiny gold-rush town back from bad land baron Bart Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his nasty hired guns in the post-Civil-War 1800s. The other magnificent half-dozen are Chris “Star Lord” Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier.
Written by Richard Wenk & Nic Pizzolatto; based on a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa & Shinobu Hashimoto & Hideo Oguni. Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
- Good casting/characters. I ain’t seen the original Japanese flick and I barely remember catching a rerun of the 1960 English-language one with Yul Brenner. So on its own and without comparing any of these guys with their classic Hollywood versions, all did well. Each guy was different enough to stand out from the other and had their own quirks, motivations, behaviors and skills.
- Pratt, Hawke and Washington especially make great cowboys. I would watch either (or hopefully all three again) in a western.
- Pratt plays a wiseguy but not the same Star Lord character or even the Jurassic Park one. He’s more of a lovable rogue gambler type with a mean streak.
- The young (and hot) Haley Bennett as the tough-young-widow, is a standout. One of the best lines of the film his hers. And though she was tough, she’s still believable as an 1800s woman; no karate or leather pants or expert marksmanship. (Sorry, feminists, no revisionist history here; that’s only for Denzel.)
- Multi-cultural lovers and white hero-haters should be satisfied. (Still, some special interest group will find something to gripe about, guaranteed.)
- Some really cool cinematography: wide-open plains/mountains, camera angles, character entrances, stunts, horse riding and of course, gunplay.
- Another scarce instance of some bad-guy justice served raw and cold. Some better than others but overall applause from me!
- Old West push-up bras and low-cut dresses. And prostitutes (though not enough fer me).
- Fans of fancy gun-twirlin’ shootin’ and jaw-droppin’ knife-throwin’ (and slick arrow-slingin’) should be happy.
- Indian vs. Indian! Coolest Native American makeup in a movie in years, even including The Revenant.
- Good believable story, other than the usual 200 vs. 7 you expect. The baddie is introduced real early and you feel for the townsfolk right off the bat. Rooting for the underdog is rewarded, though not without many obstacles and casualties.
- We have a Manuel playing a Mexican and a Byung-hun playing an Asian, but how many Native Americans are named “Martin”? (He’s actually Eskimo and Irish, despite the German/Jewish-sounding name. Could be great stand-up material.)
- The classic Elmer Bernstein theme comes on strong (but not till the end credits, unfortunately).
- The villain is really villainous. Pretty much psycho-evil. Definitely not recommended for kids or weak constitutions.
- Some of the characters have connections and backstories that seem interesting and full of potential. I wish we saw/learned more of certain ones than others, but this film is already five minutes longer than the old one.
- Bullets-vs.-Boobs ratio is sorely lacking! Just a few cleavage shots of the main (sweaty) babe and several hookers-in-bloomers in the backgrounds but that’s it. For all the bullets and people shot here, we deserve at least a sex scene, bare butt or side boob shot!
- African elephant in the room: Denzel is awesome and deserved to be the main dude. But not a single honky says a single word about a badass black guy barking orders and shootin’ six guns? Less than a decade or two after slavery was repealed? We have black motorists being shot by racist authorities in 2016 but black gunfighters encounter no prejudice in the 1800s…Yeah, right. Why pretend? You can address it without it being offensive. Historical accuracy is not racism. (Definitely not a Quentin Tarantino flick.)
- Animal-lovers won’t be happy with all the horse-horror, but I’m pretty sure most of it is CGI.
- Vincent D’Onofrio looks like he ate two of the magnificent seven.
- Suspension-Of-Disbelief Dept.: If you’ve seen any previous versions you already know this. If not, prepare for plenty of impossible-odds occurrences and stunts with a smattering of “I’m-shot-a-lot-but-I-can-still-do-this” type of stuff.
- No buttons or outtakes or snippets during or after the credits. So much for a sequel.
As usual, the “professional” critics are idiots who don’t get it. (Most of ’em don’t even mention the original Japanese version.) The vast majority of the audience didn’t see or don’t remember the 1960 version so this is a new film to many. Hollywood in the 21st century is totally different. And for that it’s entertaining and fun. You can enjoy it at home but the increased scope and sound of the big screen adds excitement and thrills to the entertainment value. Saddle up and ride to the theater, pardner!
P.S.: Hey, how about YOU or a pal or family member as one of the gunslingers? Or a superhero or baddie?. An original art piece by Pascale is perfect for yer bad self or a gift. Just ask Craig here!