The Magnificent Seven *1/2

A vulgar, tasteless remake of a genuine classic.

Is it worth $10? No 

Dear reader, I have a deep, dark secret. Don’t tell anybody, but I much prefer the original “The Magnificent Seven” to its progenitor, Akira Kurosawa’s much-lauded “Seven Samurai.” So, admittedly, this new remake of “Seven” has a lot to go up against. Sadly, it is such a piece of trash it could be put up against “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” and still emit a stronger, more rancid odor. It is a tasteless and vulgar rehash with a dose of sadism and a severe lack of joy.

If you’ve seen either of this film’s antecedents, you’ll be well versed with its plot, though the names and identities have been changed, presumably to protect the innocent (i.e. the originals). 1879, the Old West: the townsfolk of Rose Creek are under siege from rich industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who, with an army of hired guns, is stripping their land and freedom for gold. After a confrontation with locals turns deadly, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a newly widowed resident, seeks out her own hired guns to take the town back. She convinces Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter, to join her cause. He rounds up several more rogues and ne’er-do-wells like sharpshooter with a mouth Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) and the smooth Goodnight Robicheaux (…did I just type that?) (Ethan Hawke) along with a few more stereotypes until the titular seven are complete, and they descend into the stricken town and into a battle with impossible odds.

At a quick glance, this is a perfectly acceptable western. It has a good cast, a few funny (if tired) one-liners, a pretty good pace, a healthy amount of action, and some decent to good cinematography. Denzel Washington even does his usual suave, tough guy shtick, which I always enjoy. Underneath it all, though, something is off. Way off.

It starts with the tone. The original “Magnificent Seven” was intense and dramatic, but it was still fun and exciting at the same time. Dark and depressing, though, is the name of the game for this “Seven.” Fine. This is a different movie; therefore, it has every right to go down its own path. The problem, though, is that without the fun it becomes unpleasant. By the time Elmer Bernstein’s triumphant theme from original shows up, it’s less a rousing punctuation and more of an incongruous, sick joke.

Yes, this is an unpleasant movie, and its PG-13 rating is ridiculous. Director Antoine Fuqua’s last picture was the execrable “The Equalizer,” which descended into a gore filled finale that resembled a horror movie more than the action film it set itself up as. Not so surprisingly that ethos bleeds (pun intended) into this film as well. Yes, the gore is toned down (marginally), but the brutal violence remains: Ears are shot off, hands are impaled by arrows, men (and a woman) are hacked by axes or chopped, sliced, and impaled (sometimes repeatedly) with knives. You name it, this film’s got it, and I didn’t want it. Yuck.

The way the film represents women is also problematic. First of all, the character of Emma is the only woman with a speaking part, and she’s constantly paraded in front of the camera in a variety of ludicrously low cut, revealing outfits with an eye toward maximum spillage. At least she’s presented as tough and strong willed, with a knack for using a rifle. But even that’s just a ruse, as it all goes out of the window when a damsel in distress is needed, culminating with a tasteless scene that has a Native American character (and no, sadly, he has no other defining characteristics) stalking a suddenly helpless Emma. As she crawled across the floor in terror, I thought to myself, wasn’t this woman confidently gunning down bad guys just minutes before?  Even the way it’s shot brings to mind the notorious “The Birth of a Nation” from the dawn of the 20th century. 100 years later and we’re still subjected to this garbage? Give me a break.

Sadistically violent and sexist, this is also the kind of movie that thinks it’s necessary to have someone actually exclaim that the events in it were “magnificent.” The filmmakers don’t even trust the audience to understand the title. Let’s add dumb to the list of offenses.

Dear reader, this is not a secret: I do not prefer this movie to either of the originals. On the surface, it may look like an okay movie. Look a little closer and you’ll see that it’s dumb and vulgar. I’m tired of dumb movies. I’m tired of vulgar movies. And I’m exhausted by “The Magnificent Seven.”

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