I was fairly concerned with a remake of a remake but the name Antoine Fuqua gave hope. His movies like Training Day, Shooter, Tears of the Sun and Southpaw are some of my favourite movies. Not all time favourite, but the type of favourite where you can just sit and watch it for the nth time and still enjoy. This adds to that list. It’s such a well-made movie and such minor improvements made to the original remake that there are very few complaints.
STORY – The story is kept the same. A small village is terrorised by a baron and the villagers are divided on whether to cave-in or revolt. So some of them ask out for help to a gunslinger after witnessing his feat of heroism. This hero embarks on a journey to rope in some of the finest assassins to help this village and help get them their village back. Simple story set in a Western-themed time. So far, so good. The premise was acceptable when in it came out in 1960, but in 2016 the expectations are bound to increase. Still, I am going to give them props to keep the story the same as the original. I had watched the original 1960 remake a fair time ago but I do remember that there was a point where one of the characters Chico, infiltrate the bandits to know about their plans and that adds a layer to the bandit gang. That they are so naive that they don’t even know who their band members are, plus it shows that they are actually running low on supplies. Here though, there is no such moment except Red Harvest going to check out and coming back and reporting and the villain Bogue, is shown to be one dimensional with no such compelling background and is a villain for the sake of being a villain.
DIRECTION(and dialogue) – I understand this is a remake but I think a few changes should have been made which would have made the movie a bit more relevant. I don’t know that whether it was for the sake of promoting multiple races or the demand of the script but when the directors have sought to do it, I think they should have put some more substance into that angle. Here’s why. In 2016 everybody appreciates character development and moments which build up an ensemble team. Here the writers didn’t explore that part. They just copied and pasted the process of their bonding. There wasn’t any definitive moment where the whole group could fall apart because they were from different backgrounds. I mean, I can assume people then were less simpler but human nature isn’t that simple. Maybe I am overthinking, but a few more altercations showcasing the different mindsets of the variety of characters would have elevated the movie. The dialogue was top-notch. It didn’t have any amount of cheesiness to it like Western movies usually have and it was fun. Other than that, the action scenes were amazing. No doubt about it.
CINEMATOGRAPHY – The film was mainly comprised of outdoor shots. My favourite shot was before the actual fight when Chisolm is sitting on his horse in the field looking at the village. It was beautiful. The original remake had a lot of outdoor shots of them riding from place to place but it was done so many times that it became very boring. Here, somehow it looked awesome. I mean, making horse-riding look cool in 2016 isn’t easy. You have to give credit for that. I can say that because I recently saw a movie Mirzya, in which horse-riding was an integral part but boy, did they make it boring. So yes, horse-riding when done right looks pretty amazing.
ACTING – How can you expect this cast to do bad acting? It’s impossible. Denzel Washington, awesome. Denzel Washington just plays these grey characters with a heart of gold with ease. Now, when you have Denzel Washington shooting and horse-riding you better thank the movie gods for making this happen. Chris Pratt, again, awesome. He is the perfect guy to star in action-adventure movies. He isn’t plastic like usually action-adventure stars turn out to be. He is like a modern day Harrison Ford. Good to see Andy Dwyer travelling in space, chasing dinosaurs and now gun-slinging. He strikes the perfect balance between humour and action. Ethan Hawke, awesome. I hope he gets more movies. He does what he does best and he does it with dedication. Here he did the PTSD affected Goodnight very well. Vincent D’Onofrio, awesome. He was like a gentle giant. I liked the voice change that he did. I think it was his own improvisation and it fitted well. Byung Hun Lee mainly played off Ethan Hawke and it was good. Matt Sensmeier didn’t have much scope but he did his part well. It didn’t feel like a caricature. Ok, Haley Benett is extremely beautiful. Had to say it. Her character never lost the fact that she has suffered immense loss. Props to the writing department for that too for not striking an unnecessary romance out of nowhere. She was strong, compassionate and humane without being too weepy. My major gripe, like I said before was Peter Saarsgard. I don’t know if it was the writing or the acting but Bogue didn’t really stand out for me.
FINAL VERDICT – I didn’t like that last CGI burial scene. I mean, why don’t just shoot that scene? It looked really out of place. OK! This is a very good remake. Watch it if you haven’t watched it already. Certainly not any benchmark for remakes but this is the optimum level which should be maintained to make a remake. Or else, just don’t. Certainly a benchmark for Western style movies and any action movie.
P.S.– I really didn’t expect Matt Bomer to die so early in the movie.