Traffic was really bad. I mean, really bad. Like “We’re gonna route you through Malibu bad.” Or “It’ll take you an hour to get home” bad. (Our commute should be about 20 minutes long, though it seldom is.) Then I made that fatal suggestion, “Well, why don’t we go to a movie?” I mean, the theater is five minutes away, and we’ve liked seeing so many classics there like Conan The Barbarian, Akira (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service and Jaws—and, in fairness to theater, it was just fine. It’s not their fault that Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington decided to remake the classic western The Magnificent Seven. It’s our fault for going to see it.
I thought it would be okay. I haven’t seen the original. I haven’t even seen Seven Samurai. And early on, despite certain predictable stupidities (and a few surprising ones), I thought, oh, maybe, just maybe, this is going to go full on batty fun. But no. Fuqua decides his villain should be a capitalist spouting Marxist cant (though backwards, like a Satanist would say his “Hail, Mary” backwards) because in 1876, the Evil Bartholomew Bogue has read the book (in German or perhaps Russian, since the first English translation didn’t come out until the ’80s), absorbed its holy and wholly good message, and decided he’s the anti-Christ. And of course the townspeople know exactly what a “capitalist” is, and a “robber baron” (first use 1878) and even to apply it to Bogue who’s really just a…well, whatever the plot needed, I guess.
We won’t even get into Haley Bennet’s ridiculous push-up bra because, well, there are some anachronisms that I like and some that I don’t like. Although I’d note that neither Sophia Loren nor Claudia Cardinale needed push-up bras and, presumably, they would have had the good sense not to show the bra straps, like that would’ve even been a style in 1876 (if they’d even had bras).
But I’m digressing ’cause it’s a dumb movie with a lot of wasted talent and very little fun. Denzel isn’t even that compelling, like he’s tired or whatever. Virtually everybody here is interchangeable with another actor of that type. Ethan Hawke has his moments. Vincent D’onofrio is kind of the bright spot, following as he is, Orson Welle’s late-middle-age spread and being positively enormous as he stomps around hacking people with axes because, goshdarnit, bullets are just too slow. Sarsgaard is Bogue, and does his best to chew up the scenery, short of growing a toothbrush moustache. They all have moments, but nothing that’s going to stick with you—well, by the time the credits roll, it’ll be gone.
Maybe you’ll remember this important lesson: Only white people aren’t bullet proof. (I guess that constitutes a spoiler about who lives and dies, but you’re not going to care, either way.)
Did I mention Bogue has a gatling gun? He sends in his army to take on the townspeople, and when he gets impatient, he unveils his gatling gun and fires from a distant hill. Maybe a hundred yards away. With a gatling gun. That easily pierces the town’s walls, often multiple walls, so that it can find some sort of fleshy target. At which point, you gotta wonder: If you could kill everyone from that far away, why bother with the army? Get two guns, and lots of ammo and done.
Look, it’s just dumb. It’s not worthy of your time. But there are probably worse ways to waste your life, like ritual satanic sacrifice. We didn’t actually hate it, but that’s sort of the reason it’s so bad: It’s that it’s not that bad. It’s utterly calculated to be inoffensive. With worldwide distribution it’ll make back its money, though, and we’ll be subject to Fuqua and Washington remaking Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory next.