Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk
Cinematographer: Mauro Fiore
Producer: Roger Birnbaum and Todd Black
by Jon Cvack
There have only been a handful of good American Action Movies from the last decade - Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, Edge of Tomorrow, Planet of the Apes, White House Down, and Mad Max - and so my expectations going into this were for yet another film overwrought with CGI, video game action sequences (that is, action sequences that could easily crossover to video games*), and grand plots of destruction found in most recent films from the genre. Instead I was surprised to find a practical effects heavy film that stuck true to Kurosawa’s original story with some great performances, creating a movie that gave me hope.
Sticking to The Seven Samurai and its American predecessor, the story involves a big time and ruthless businessman Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard; in a brilliant and fitting role) who invades the small town of Rose Creek, leaving the locals under the auspices of this authoritarian regime. When Emma Cullen’s (Haley Bennett) husband is killed, the bandits burn the church down and the Rose Creek residents attempt to rise up, with Emma joining her husband’s friend Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) in recruiting some cowboys to help them take the town back.
For a bit of context, I was sitting in the legendary couch room at The Landmark at Pico, which for anyone who can’t guess, is a movie theater comprised entirely of comfortable couches. Go there early enough and you can have one of the most comfortable moving going experiences of your life. Unfortunately, I got in late, and with few couches available, was forced to sit on the far left, which was far too much of an angle, to which I got up and went to the very front row which failed to recline just by a few inches, causing the top frame of my glasses to cut into the screen, forcing me to have to go back to the original seat. For anyone who can relate, you know the worst part is that your discomfort makes you unable to focus on anything that's taking place on screen and instead to a bubbling panic attack as you know all eyes are on you.
Once I settled down, I learned Sam Chislom (Denzel Washington) is first approached as a type of bounty hunter, joined shortly after by card tricker and flawless gunmen Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt). While not at all worried or even concerned Washington would play the role with anything other than greatness, I was excited to see what Pratt could do. I enjoyed him in Jurassic World, seeing his action star potential, and while at first his sarcasm kind of pulls you out, as we get to learn more about his character, witnessing his whiskey dependence and skeletons in the closet, I was blown away by how much depth came uncovered; and all in the second remake of a classic film. Not exactly the easiest shoes to fill.
The two join up and recruit Chinese Megastar Byung-Hun Lee as Billy Rocks, demonstrating yet another foray from Hollywood toward creating internationally competitive films (with Matt Damon’s journey across seas doing the opposite in the same year's The Great Wall). He plays a knife-slinger that’s quicker to draw a throwing blade than his opponents are at pulling arms. Billy Rock's talents are managed by the film’s strongest performance from Ethan Hawke, Goodnight Robicheaux (gotta love these names), whose penchant for the bottle and all things debauchery seems reminiscent of Hawke’s earlier performance in Linklater’s The Newton Boys, except things have gone far grimmer for the character. Shortly after they then grab Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and are approached by Comanche Warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), who drops whatever journey he’s on to join the men for some breakfast and help them take back the town.
*See The Hobbit and the latter Pirates of the Caribbean sequels
Stay tuned for Part 2...
BELOW: Chris Pratt's looking to be the next Harrison Ford
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