Saturday, September 24, 2016
GOODNIGHT, FUCKERS #209: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
The new version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN came out this weekend. Last night and today were pretty rough for me. I needed to escape for a while, and I hoped that this film would do the trick. To be honest, when I first heard about the new remake, I had no interest. This story has been told so many times that I'm completely bored with it. But then I learned that Antoine Fuqua was directing it. That interested me a great deal. I got excited for it. He's a great filmmaker, and I knew he would bring something new and interesting to this old, used up story.
I'm a lifelong fan of westerns, but I came to this one late in life. I didn't see it until I was in college. When I finally saw it, I was blown away. I sought out SEVEN SAMURAI so I could see the original story, and that, too, is fucking awesome.
And then came the day that my local theater decided to play it on the big screen. The dean of my college was in charge of it. He wanted to do a talk after the film. You'd better believe that I got in on that action. The old westerns, like this one and Sergio Leone's work (I saw THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY on the big screen when the Music Box showed it, and that was amazing), are perfect for a theater showing. Sure, you can enjoy these films on your TV, but it just doesn't do the work justice. You've got to see it on those giant screens, the ones that show you every pore in the faces of the actors, pores big enough for you to fit your head in.
I loved it. It enhanced my experience. And the dean had an interesting talk about the film afterwards. He told us that when he was a kid his father woke him up in the middle of the night. The old man said not to tell his mom, but he absolutely had to show his son THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. And that sounds like the best set of circumstances to watch such a film. If my dad had woken me up in the middle of the night to watch this movie? That would have been a magical experience.
And then I finally got to see the new version at the very same theater, on the very same screen. When I'd first seen the original the screen was #2, the one in the middle. The one that has an organ in there for opening nights, when they want to give the viewers an old fashioned theater experience. They've expanded since then, and now #2 is #5, which is where I saw the new version.
My friends, this might be the greatest remake ever made. The beginning is crazy. The violence is so swift and out of control it made me nervous. Peter Sarsgaard is a vile villain. I'm pretty sure that if it would make him money, he'd set a baby on fire and punt it into an alligator's mouth.
And then we meet the new Seven. This is Denzel Washington's best role since GLORY. I don't know how to explain it, but he's got this weird Jack Elam thing going on. There isn't a wandering eye, but I couldn't help but think of Elam every moment I saw Washington on the screen.
I love every minute of this movie. No, it's not as good as the original, but it's really fucking good. I think it has a lot of social relevance, especially since they changed the nature of the bad guy. In the original it was Mexican bandits led by Eli Wallach. In the new version it's a land baron, the very embodiment of capitalism. That says a lot, and I like that.
There is so much violence in this movie. If it does well at the box office, I'm sure there will be a hundred "think pieces" on cinematic violence and how it's wrong. Fuck the Wild Bunch; this new Seven kills maybe--POSSIBLY--everyone in the West. It's an overwhelming orgy of western violence. I think Washington alone killed about 3,000 people. The end is a crazy, super-violent action sequence filled with uncomfortable deaths. When members of the Seven get killed, it's shockingly painful. Fuqua isn't one to back down or flinch; he jumps in with a mad grin, both fists swinging.
Outlaw Vern has a great philosophy of badass cinema. This should be in the top ten badass movies of all time. There are so many great moments, too. My favorite is when one of the Seven keeps shooting this one asshole until he falls dead . . . into a coffin at the undertaker's shop. Fuqua also doesn't over-explain things. I hate when people do that. He gives you a detail, and then it comes to fruition down the line. It's incredibly satisfying.
Remember when I saw THE H8FUL EIGHT for the first time? This one had nearly the same effect on me. The new Seven isn't as good as Tarantino's masterpiece, but it's really fucking good. I felt like a kid again. It made me so happy that for two hours and thirteen minutes I completely forgot about some horrible shit that's happening in my life right now. That's happening to a dear friend of mine.
If you're anything like me, go see the new version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It's fucking amazing. It might even bring the western back to life. We'll see. I hope that happens.