The Magnificent Seven review: by Rob Stoakes
UK certification: 12A
Dear Antoine Fuqua,
Mr Fuqua, or may I call you Antoine? Tony? I don’t know why I’m asking, you can’t respond to me. Tony, we need to talk. It’s about your movies. They’re not very good.
Now, technically, I will say that you’re competent. You know how to frame a shot clearly and carefully and all of the information the audience needs is clearly on screen at any given time, which in this day and age is a massive compliment. No, really, it is; you know that action scenes and actors should carry an audience’s attention without needing to be enhanced by dizzying, rubbish shaky cam.
The problem is, in your films at least, they don’t. Whatever young artist walked into Hollywood with wide-eyed wonder is dead, and out you walked, completely soulless and visionless. There’s no interesting shape to your cinematography, no control on your actors, no creativity in your visuals. I would rather watch an auteur fail to succeed than a robot succeed at not even trying. It’s like you’re a chef giving me a warm fish steak and a single tomato in a bucket of water and telling me it’s fish stew. You’re technically right, all of the elements are there, but you’ve put no effort in whatsoever and now the smell of wet fish is getting everywhere. It’s actually disgusting, Tony, please get rid of the bucket.
Now so far you’ve gotten away with it thanks to, say, The Equalizer‘s halfway decent script or Southpaw‘s great Jake Gylenhaal performance. Those were two and a half star films that could’ve easily been one star films if not for those elements. Not so with The Magnificent Seven, though. You had to get given the screenplay that was written by a gibbon who one day aspires to be a chartered accountant, so The Magnificent Seven is not just the biggest film in your career, but also the worst.
I know, I know, it really isn’t your fault. It certainly wasn’t your fault that the actors are on autopilot outside of Chris Pratt as Starlord trying and failing to do a one-man City Slickers tribute and Vincent D’Onofrio’s hilarious impersonation of a homeless kettle.
Nor is it your fault that the script is complete tosh, with clichés spat out of bad Texan accents, a nonsensical villain making inept plans, Denzel Washington’s character seeming to only decide what his motivation is right at the end of the film, and everyone else defined only by the skill they have at the start of the film that is never used again. They don’t even have motives; they only help the town because “C’mooooooooooooooon” That and Haley Bennett’s hilariously low-cut top. The prostitutes in this film wear more clothes than her.
Now, the tone of the film being all over the map? That isn’t wholly your problem either. We start with a massacre in a church and immediately cut to Pratt using card tricks to outwit guffawing idiotic baddies, but that’s in the script too, and having a third of the cast hamming it up like a pig festival while the rest sleepwalk about the set doesn’t help.
But all flops have a first brick they trip over, and that brick is you. Hollywood is desperate to bring the Western back to prominence, always have been, and refuse to accept that no one is touching them. And after the overly ambitious and terrible Lone Ranger flopped, they called you make something bland and safe, a remake of a remake of one of the most famous films of all time. But with boring action scenes, visual blandness and a rubbish screenplay, you instead made something as fun as a trip to Santa’s home contents insurer’s office.
I’m writing to you as one creative mind to another with a message; don’t lose hope. You do have talent. Worse directors than you are working today and have made better movies because they aren’t just going through the motions. Because if you don’t care about a movie, then why should I care about watching it?
So please start caring, Tony. Just spare us more of this, because this film stinks like a battery acid and bumfluff cocktail.
Budget: $108 million/Music: James Horner/Length: 133 minutes