Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rapid Reviews: The Magnificent Seven and Undocumented Executive

Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua go together like peanut butter and jelly. The collaborative duo have a history dating back 15 years to the filmmaker's undeniable finest work, Training Day. It also happened to be the same film that handed Denzel Washington his second Academy Award. And although I wasn't too impressed by their 2014 joint effort, The Equalizer, the pair's latest endeavor and Western reboot, The Magnificent Seven, proves to be a solid entry.

Industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) will do whatever's necessary to overtake the small town of Rose Creek for his financial gain. And after a strong-willed widow (Haley Bennett) loses her husband to Bogue's violent actions, she and the rest of the town's inhabitants offer everything they have in exchange for protection via a bounty hunter named Chisolm (Denzel Washington). The bounty hunter accepts their offer and summons a ragtag group of gunslingers to help fight alongside the townsfolk against Bogue's army of combatants.

I've always gravitated towards the Western genre. And while The Magnificent Seven is far from an exceptional film, it provides adequate entertainment and checks off many boxes from the genre's list. It's the little things like an excellent score from James Horner and Simon Franglen and solid direction that help combat a few writing and acting deficiencies evident throughout the film. Chris Pratt is a bona fide Hollywood star, yet his performance feels wildly out of place. Furthermore, the script fails to sufficiently develop quite a few key characters. However, despite these structural shortcomings, Antoine Fuqua still manages to produce a fun and enjoyable western reboot that's definitely beyond much of his recent work.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Writer and director Brian Kosisky reached out to me regarding his timely indie comedy, Undocumented Executive, which is now available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play. Kosisky's debut feature won't offer any familiar names or faces, but he still manages to accomplish a great deal with such an economical budget.

Tony Guerrero stars as Jesus Gutierrez, an illegal immigrant who crosses the border to live with his sister Rosa (Doris Morgado). She's able to land Jesus a job interview at the company where she cleans the building, but the ambitious day laborer spills paint on his only casual outfit and shows up in a nice suit. A mix-up ensues and Jesus ends up interviewing for an executive position where he ultimately lands the job and discovers some dirty antics going on within the company.

Undocumented Executive benefits greatly from clever comedic writing that includes various recurring jokes and hilarious twists of words thanks to the lead character's limited ability to only speak broken English (i.e. he went to "jail", not "Yale"). Although Kosisky displays a knack for crafting humor, the film suffers from middling performances and a few writing deficiencies. The movie's main antagonists are too animated and the romance that develops between Jesus and Anita (Melissa Ponzio), the female co-worker overlooked for the executive position, never feels natural. However, kudos are in order for Kosisky who overcomes countless low-budget limitations to offer a laugh-filled debut effort. Once again, Undocumented Executive is available for streaming on the platforms listed above.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

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