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Two Weeks Ago: Hell or High Water
Three Weeks Ago: War Dogs
Technology changes everything. There was a time when sticking your ass on a Xerox machine while drunk wasn’t just a legend. It was something you did. Every time you were near a machine, regardless of whose it was, or whether you had to break into an office building to get to it. You dropped trou, hauled yourself up onto that glass, so cold like a sheet of ice, and then pounded the copy button until someone stopped you. Those first prints were crisp. You could see the irregular-shaped mole that always itches, the hairs, the anal fissures and your wrinkled nuts nestled between the cheeks, all in black and white, as though they were the stars of an Ansel Adams exhibit.
If yours was a particularly inviting or amusing ass, people Xeroxed the copy. Each time they did, a little bit of the original’s crispness disappeared. Copy that copy of the copy and more of your personal detail blurred away. A few more generations and your ass morphed into something entirely different, the original intent--which was to say to the world, “Hey, look at my ass! On the copier! Right now! Van Halen Sucks!”--dissolved. Your ass became abstract art with a life of its own, your dangling sac making people think, “That poor vole, squeezed like that.”
What do people do these days for fun? I ask because I never, ever get invited to office parties anymore. Do secretaries sit on scanners and commit their buttcheeks to a series of zeros and ones that can be reproduced a zillion times, never changing, always looking, with complete fidelity, like a secretary’s ass?
I bring this up to you because I know my readers think about and dream about buttholes as much as I do. I also bring it up because as I watched the remake of The Magnificent Seven I thought about Xeroxes and new technology. This fucking movie is like a Xerox of a Xerox of an original, all done at that creepy four-cents-a-copy joint where the machines are dirty and a stoner makes flyers for his hemp rally or jam band show. The moles and the hairs of the original version are obliterated by reproduction, all subtlety and nuance lost, and all we have left are gross, unclear outlines of what was once clear.
The original in this case was Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Seven Samurai, the story of seven unemployed samurais hired to protect a village under siege by forty bandits. The first Xerox was John Sturges’ 1960 The Magnificent Seven, which moved the story from Japan to Mexico where seven hard-luck gunfighters protected a Mexican village from 30 thieves. The latest is Antoine Fuqua’s which exchanges details and shadows for harsh, thick outlines of what was once a human story.
Thirty or forty bandits is now an army of hundreds, because that’s what the Hollywood Xerox does. Bigger is easier to write, easier to direct and, as a bonus, louder. Subtle shading of characters has been replaced with cartoonish good and evil.
A man named Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who could probably out-twirl Snidely Whiplash, terrorizes a small-town of good folk. He randomly kills people, burns churches, and worst of all, makes pompous speeches while using props like he’s rancid offspring of Joel Osteen and Carrot Top, all because he wants their land and doesn’t want to pay for it.
Once Bogue has driven the small town to its knees, a recent widow with fantastic tits (Haley Bennett) on display goes out searching for help. She comes across Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter who’s too damn cool for school, and offers him all of her town’s money in exchange for his help. As the movie’s title suggest, Chisolm recruits six more wild-west misfits to help him, led by Chris Pratt as a drunk gunslinger who has marginally more to do than the rest, but still has almost no backstory. Oh, except that he does magic. Of course, he does. How else could anyone ever by magnificent?
Each member of the so-called Magnificent Seven isn’t. Not morally, athletically or intellectually. Or, if they are, the movie does a shitty job of proving it. They’re more like a nineteenth century Village People, each with a single notable trait, and also a ethnic group to represent: the Indian, the Mexican, the Chinese, the Irish, the fat old guy, some wearing makeup, some furs, all having fun at the YMCA. The Chinese is a master of knives (Byung hun Lee), the Indian uses a bow and arrow and makes war whoops (Martin Sensmeier), while another is a Civil War hero who has lost his taste for blood (Ethan Hawke). Not one of them moves beyond that single trait, and not one of them distinguishes himself as either interesting or worth rooting for.
The band of mercenaries assembles quickly, yet the movie takes for-fucking-ever to get to the fight. At two hours and 13 minutes long, the middle of the movie meanders slower than a shitstream from an overflowing porta-pottie. The story goes nowhere it couldn’t have gone in a half hour less time, and the Seven mercenaries don’t become any more interesting.
The movie’s soundtrack is overblown horseshit: reverberating trumpets and swelling strings any time the one lady (and her bustled boobs) is on screen. But the dialog is even worse. In The Magnificent Seven, the characters don’t have conversations. Instead, they make speeches and statements right past each other. Maybe there was some coffee mug and bumper sticker manufacturer off screen that they were pitching ideas to because it all sounds like the kind of crap you might read if Jeff Foxworthy were a motivational speaker.
The new Magnificent Seven takes place at Knott’s Berry Farm, with a cast that dressed up in the old-timey photo booth. It’s all make-believe, a wild west where smudges are fashionable, everyone eats well, and saloons have been designed by someone who learned history from Bugs Bunny cartoons. I guess Fuqua has no interest in authenticity, just in Xeroxing how Hollywood portrayed the west in the 50s, with neckerchiefs and crisp vests.
Finally, the movie gets around to its reason for existing. That is, the big-ass battle between good and evil. It’s a huge, confusing fight, muddled because the bad guy has infinite resources. I get the need to make the seven mercenaries be heavy underdogs, but because they are so ridiculously outnumbered the battle doesn’t have a clear end. It’s just wave after wave of very-easy-to-kill villains charging into town having learned nothing from the previous wave. Baddies get dispatched quickly, but they just keep coming. Until they don’t. There is no tension, just mayhem.
The Magnificent Seven also shows blatant disregard for common sense. Primarily, I got no sense these gunslingers gave a flying fuck what happened. But also, what happens early on is ignored later. For example, busty Emma offers what she says is all of the town’s money to Sam Chisolm. Later, a townsperson demands to know who told her to speak for all of them. Well, how the fuck did she get all the town’s money, then? Did she steal it? That would be a more interesting movie.
A lot of things would be a more interesting movie. A Xerox of my ass, first generation or thirtieth, would be more interesting. Two Fingers for The Magnificent Seven.