Category Archives: Western

The Magnificent Seven

Unlucky For Some

I tend to dislike a lot of things that other people seem to love. The Apprentice? That programme is just a shameless re-skinning of Big Brother filled with egotistical ball bags. They don’t even get a job now. They just get given 20k, told to fuck off and never to speak to Lord Sugar-tits again.

Then again, I like a lot of things that other people hate like blue cheese – how could you not like sweaty mouldy cheese slopping around your taste-buds?! Perhaps that’s why I like The Magnificent Seven even though it’s not a brilliant film.

I guess I’ve never felt at home with whatever “normality” is so I tend to gravitate to films that feature characters that don’t seem to fit in and especially ones that are self-aware about it.

If you don’t know, The Magnificent Seven is based on a remake of a re-imagining of Seven Samurai which is not just one of my favourite films but one of the best ever made. Don’t take my word for it – it’s currently number 19 on IMDB’s top 250 films.

What made this 1950’s black and white Japanese language film so incredible was partly its incredible cinematography but more importantly its almost unparalleled characterisation of each of the 7 characters, even by today’s standards.

I was really pleased to see this was a key focus in this latest offering. You only need to see the star power thrown at the film to know this is true with Denzel Washington being the effortlessly cool and focused bounty hunter Chisolm and flavour of the month Chris Pratt playing the mischievous gambler Josh Faraday.

Admittedly, making each of the main characters different nationalities is an easy way to differentiate your main cast but they work really well together whether it be Red Indian scalp hunter Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and the disavowed Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) or Civil War vet  and sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his mysterious, badass, east asian protector Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee).

The film even manages to portray a vile and threatening villain in Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) which is a welcome break from some recent lacklustre offerings from the Superhero genre.

The rest of the film however is middling to bad and the main culprit  is the lack of any quality writing which is ironically the problem with my blog too. Much of the dialogue is only there to push forward the story and is at times clichéd and obvious so treat this like every Christmas day after the age of 21 and don’t expect any surprises!

Haley Bennett is the only female character of note and plays the maiden in distress who initiates the help of the magnificent seven but is offered precious little screen time even though she has been well trained with a rifle and could have easily have been worked in as a replacement or addition to the one of the seven.

The action scenes at times try to feel gritty and traumatic but the need to appeal all creatures great and small by getting that juicy 12a rating means it has to pull its punches and therefore has a weird disconnect between scenes of humour, futility and devastation. Scenes that are so much more saccharine in Seven Samurai.

Yet for the same reason there is an over-riding joyousness to much of the film making incredibly fun to watch even if it’s technically not a great film but again don’t trust me I’m not normal.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Characters
+ It’s fun!
+ The Bogue-y man


– Poor dialogue
– Haley Bennett under-utilised
– Could have been grittier

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The Hateful Eight

From Dusk Till Dawn

Hateful

With his own brand of hyper-violence and sharp yet natural script-writing Quentin Tarantino has not only changed the filmic landscape but also pushed the boundaries of modern popular films can be ever since the early 90’s.

More recently Tarantino appears to be focused on re-imagining fringe movie genres. Death Proof is an homage to 1970’s muscle car movies for example while Kill Bill holds moments of pastiche for Japanese martial arts films and even aspects that would feel at home in a Anime series.

I was really excited to see The Hateful Eight. A homage/pastiche of western movies seems like a perfect fit for Tarantino yet for some reason it only seems to have been given a limited release.

As it turns out the film has been shot in Super Panavision 70. I realise that probably means as much to you as a Shakespeare verse does to a raccoon but basically it’s a format that hasn’t been used since we may or may not have landed on the moon. This is important because it meant that cinemas had to dick around with their projectors – hence the limited release.

Super Panavision 70 utilises an extremely wide screen format which means you get to see big, beautiful, sweeping scenery shots in their full glory… or at least you would if 90% of the film weren’t shot inside or in a blizzard. Without truly utilising what this format has to offer feels as wasted as the resources needed for a court case about whether a monkey has IP right to selfie. Yes… that really happened.

If your local cinema does show the film then you’ll need to bring a wash-bag, towel, change of clothes and something to trim your leg or face hair because this is the longest film I think I’ve ever seen in the cinema.

The film is broken up into 6 distinct chapters to tell the tale of the bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) taking Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be hanged in Red Rock.

The first 2 acts focus on John Ruth picking up hitch-hikers: the bounty hunter Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and Red Rock’s newly appointed Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins). Due to the blizzard they have to stop at an inn where 4 other guests are staying but are any of them there to save Daisy?

These 2 chapters are really well scripted introducing us to Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) who is brilliant as the polite British hang man of Red Rock but fail to makes interesting rounded characters out of the rest.

The script poses questions of human rights, racial hatred and, of course, a heavy doses of ‘the N word’ which are clearly meant to shock and offend.

The 3rd act holds some exceptional dialogue between Warren and the other guests at the inn and utilises the racial tension to his own gain amidst an unravelling and intriguing ‘who done it’ type plot.

Things then turned. There was an intermission. No… really.

The second half sees farcical elements of dialogue, similar to a Coen brothers film, give way to farcical violence. Whilst some of these are indeed fun it feels to the detriment of the story.

Act 5 lays out, in painstaking detail, everything that has happened and why leaving absolutely no room for your own interpretation. All the earlier intrigue and possibility is absolutely blown out of the water.

The final act holds violence for nothing more than spectacle. Whilst it doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall experience, it does leave a predictable and unsatisfying ending.

Overall this could have been one of my favourite Tarantino films but I found it lost it’s way after my nap and shave in the intermission partly because it’s just too long. I mean we went in to the screening at just gone 6 and left at just before 10 – I guess I’m hateful it didn’t finish at 8.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Great dialogue
+ Samuel L Jackson and Tim Roth
+ Excellent production value


– Too long
– Act 5
– Act 6

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