the dreaded nostalgia, over leonard maltin
throwback thursday: thank you, bruce and ann

african-american directors series/by request: the magnificent seven (antoine fuqua, 2016)

Somehow, I have seen seven movies directed by Antoine Fuqua. Seven, without finding any of them great. Only one was above-average, Training Day. Denzel Washington won his second Oscar for that movie, his first as the leading man, and it was a worthy performance, even though he was better in Malcolm X. The rest were tolerable time-wasters ... Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer and Equalizer 2. The worst by far was his first, The Replacement Killers, which completely wasted the U.S. debut of the immortal Chow Yun-Fat. There is something to be said for a director who can crank out one decent picture after another, even if I forget I've seen them a week later. I once wrote of Olympus Has Fallen, "Worth watching five years from now when you’re sitting at home, bored, and it shows up on TNT." The easy forgetfulness of these movies is actually a good thing in these circumstances ... when you watch it again on TV, you'll forget you've seen it and can enjoy it like new.

The Magnificent Seven fits in with all the rest: better than The Replacement Killers, not as good as Training Day, OK to have on in the background five years from now when it's on TV. The catch here, of course, is that it is a remake of a popular Western from 1960, although it's worth noting that the original was not a classic, despite the fond memories it evokes from Boomer fans of cowboy movies. You could spend a little time thinking about the ways the 2016 version updates the original ... Fuqua insisted on a diverse cast, so you've got an African-American lead, the female lead isn't useless, The Seven includes a Korean, a Native-American character played by an Alaskan, and a Mexican playing a Mexican. (The Mexicans in the original were played by two Germans, a Russian, and Charles Bronson, with Eli Wallach as the main bandido.) Fuqua also gets rid of the Great White Savior model ... no longer are The Seven there to save poor Mexicans. (Instead they are saving poor white people.)

There are things to like. The movie looks good, a bit dark maybe. The actors do their jobs. Importantly, Fuqua directs the big action scene in a way that keeps our bearings ... you always know who is where. (Isn't all that important, I suppose, since the main thing about the battle is the good guys are almost perfect shots.) There is no reason not to watch The Magnificent Seven ... well, it's kind of violent for a PG-13 movie. But there really isn't any reason to watch it, either.

(Here is a letterboxd list of movies with African-American directors.)


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