Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk
Cinematographer: Mauro Fiore
Producer: Roger Birnbaum and Todd Black
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
Having been burnt out by the last few years dreadful action slate, I read a few reviews to make sure it was worth checking out, coming across Buzzfeed’s Alison Wilmore’s blurb about the film serving Hollywood’s “…urgent conversation about representation.” I haven’t seen the original, but from the cover makes it looks like it centers around a bunch of white guys. Let me preface this by saying I’m all for inclusion, and this film doesn’t really lose anything by having a more diverse cast, except that for however rugged and rebellious (conservative?) these men are, they really have no problem with each other; acting near colorblind. Understanding that this isn’t some grand historical epic documenting the Wild West with full accuracy, but it also doesn’t abide by the embellishment seen in more fantastical texts from the era such as The Wild Wild West or Cowboys vs. Aliens.
My main concern was that this film was getting dangerously close to revisionism, as though a byproduct of what happens in when some want to have a serious conversation about cutting out the word "nigger" from Mark Twain’s work and therefore try to make history and its art less offensive. The story could’ve have benefited from addressing these issues, as the diverse casting decision was so obvious in today’s political climate, that ignoring the topic felt like cheating. Given how violent the film is, I was left wondering why that was okay for audiences to consume, but any conflict around the different ethnic groups went unaddressed - or very loosely, at best. It’s another victim of America’s cinema in that violence is always welcome on both sides of the political spectrum.
Politics aside, this film has some of the best practical action sequences I’ve see, with the exception of a poorly rendered stunt piece, in which Chisolm hangs from a horse riding full speed as the camera dollies with the action, so clearly created by a computer that I’m surprised they left in. Moment aside, I never got the feeling that the film was attempting to progress action forward, therefore relying on cheap computer tricks. Instead it seems to have taken what’s worked best in all of western cinema’s history. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just simple and effective. The concluding battle alone, in which they lay TNT to blow up the fast approaching enemy reminded me of Braveheart’s epic battle sequences. I was captivated through it all, seeing even the more hackneyed conventions as fitting - such as Goodnight’s return just in knick of time. This film wasn’t trying to usher in a new era of modern western archetypes, so much as revisit what was once so effective.
Finally we received a sequel that wasn’t trying to improve upon a proven formula. As the common criticism goes, why not remake movies that were made poorly, rather than attempt to fix what worked so well. When the film ended I was left optimistic. I hope more filmmakers take Fuqua’s lead and return to logical, practical action, as this was just what I’ve been waiting for.
BELOW: A taste of what's missing in today's action movies
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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