Tag Archive: Denzel Washington


The Magnificent Seven(1960) James Coburn and Steve McQueen

With Quentin Tarentino’s The Hateful Eight due in theaters in November, we can only hope Westerns have another shot at making a comeback.  Will a remake of one of the all-time, best-reviewed classic Westerns indicate other studios jumping on the bandwagon?

Actor Peter Sarsgaard (Green Lantern, Orphan, The Skeleton Key) is the latest addition to the cast of a remake of The Magnificent Seven being finalized for a 2017 release by MGM and Sony.  Based on a reworked script by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) and John Lee Hancock (Snow White And The Huntsman) from the classic John Sturges film starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, the new version will be directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Shooter, King Arthur, Training Day).  The villain in the original 1960 story of an oppressed Mexican farming village seeking a small band of mercenaries for protection was played by Eli Wallach.

The only actor we think is missing from this remake is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who we would cast as Brynner’s badass hero.  Still, the list of leading actors revealed so far is promising: Denzel Washington (2 Guns, Unstoppable, The Manchurian Candidate, Training Day, Philadelphia, Much Ado About Nothing), Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Moneyball, Everwood), Vincent D’Onofrio (Men in Black, Jurassic World, Daredevil), Byung-hun Lee (Terminator Genisys, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, RED 2), Matt Bomer (White Collar, Tru Calling, Chuck), and Ethan Hawke (Gattaca, Dead Poet’s Society, White Fang, Alive, Training Day, Assault on Precinct 13) should come together to form an interesting ensemble cast.

Byung-Hun Lee in I Saw the Devil

Byung-Hun Lee on horseback in I Saw the Devil.

The 1960 cast was as gritty as they come:  Brynner and McQueen were joined by Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn with Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz.

If you think a remake of one of the greatest Westerns of all time is a bad idea, recall that The Magnificent Seven itself was a remake of Akira Kurasawa’s equally superb The Seven Samurai from 1954, starring Takashi Shimura and Toshirô Mifune.  We’d also count Washington, Bomer, Hawke, Lee, and Pratt among our favorite actors in Hollywood, so this will be worth a shot.

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The Equalizer poster A

This weekend’s release of the first trailer for The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, a role originally cast in the 1980s by British actor Edward Woodward in a successful four-season television series, brings up yet again the age-old question of when you can change a character’s race or sex in a retelling and when you can’t, or shouldn’t.

Can Kojak, originally played by Telly Savalas, an American actor of Greek heritage, be played by a black actor, so long as he’s also bald (as played by Ving Rhames in the 2005 remake)?

When adapting comic books to film, can you change Perry White (as in The Amazing Spider-man series) and Nick Fury ( as in The Avengers movie series) from white to black?  Can you change Johnny Storm from white to Latin (as in the next Fantastic Four)?  Does it matter that his sister is played by someone white?  What if the sister is Latin and the brother is white (as in the first Fantastic Four movies)?  Should Wonder Woman be played by anyone who isn’t Greek (see American Lynda Carter in the 1970s TV series or Israeli actress Gal Gadot in the forthcoming Superman vs Batman)?  Can Harvey Dent be black (as played by Billy Dee Williams in the 1989 Batman)?  A black orphan Annie (another new film)?

Equalizer teaser poster

How much of any of these characters–the essential elements of these characters–is about what their race is?  Is any?

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Washington Wahlberg 2 Guns

It would be pretty difficult to screw up a movie with Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Edward James Olmos, and Bill Paxton.  How often do any of these guys make a bad movie?  So it’s no surprise the 2013 action film 2 Guns is everything you’d want it to be.  It’s now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

2 Guns is an adaptation of the Steven Grant crime series of the same name from BOOM! Studios.  Although it’s billed as an “action comedy,” it should fall in the same genre as Die Hard.  Sure, there are some good, funny lines throughout, but like Bruce Willis’s humor, Washington and Wahlberg’s great banter is not what most would call “comedy”.  It’s a classic action flick.  But the label doesn’t really matter.  2 Guns simply delivers the goods.  

2 Guns movie poster

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2 Guns poster

It looks like a buddy cop movie, and has a ring of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon movies.  2 Guns features two of Hollywood’s best actors–Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.  And the first trailer reveals some chemistry especially through the humor in the banter between the two. 

Washington plays a DEA agent and Wahlberg plays a Naval Intelligence Officer.  Each are sent to investigate the other.  But who is behind this?  When the older DEA agent slips up the Naval Officer shoots and wounds the agent, sending them both after each other ultimately to realize they are merely pawns in a mob game.

Has Washington ever played a bad part?  He was great in The Mighty Quinn, Glory, Much Ado About Nothing, The Pelican Brief, Philadelphia, Crimson Tide, Fallen, The Manchurian Candidate, Inside Man, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Unstoppable. 

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Reviewed by C.J. Bunce

If you saw Taking of Pelham 123 with Denzel Washington you may sense a bit of a deja vu.  That’s probably because both starred Washington and were directed by Tony Scott, who knows how to film an unrelenting train ride.  But Unstoppable doesn’t need the criminal elements to carry a nail-biting story simmering at first then racing non-stop through the final action sequence.

Two-time Oscar winner Washington shares equal screen time with co-stars Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek) and Rosario Dawson (Sin City), who particularly shines as a smart, lead dispatcher who uses her experience to try to convince railway executives of the unusual danger of this train full of chemical cars racing through rural Pennsylvania without an engineer onboard, pursuing a sharp turn in the more densely populated city of Stanton.

As the story begins, a befuddled engineer (Ethan Suplee, My Name is Earl) steps off the train to change tracks, when the engine slips into full gear and takes off down the track.  Dawson plays Connie, the lead dispatcher who realizes the danger as the train accelerates head-on through train stops, encountering a head-on train of school children, a car wreck on the tracks with frantic horses, and another train being driven by Frank (Washington), who has spent decades on the rails and who recently was given his retirement notice, and newbie conductor Will (Pine) on his first day working with Frank.  Kevin Dunn plays the railway representative who, despite warnings from Connie, continues to make the wrong decisions and fails to get the train to stop.  Lew Temple plays a train welder down the line who comes in and out of the story with a bit of humor, fed up with the failed attempts at stopping the train.  Kevin Corrigan plays a railway inspector adding his own theoretical and mathematical contributions to the core team’s strategy (think if train A leaves town at 5 p.m. and travels at 55 mph and train B advances in the oposite direction at 70 mph, at what time will the trains collide??).

The first third of the film is a pretty comfortable ride.  We get to know about Frank and his daughters, and Will and his problems with his wife, played by Jessy Schram (Life, and young Allison on Medium).  The camera angles and slow-build really sets up the action in a believable, non-Hollywood way, and the ride is steady and not overdone.

After the experience and decisions of Frank working via radio with Connie prove invaluable, the stakes are raised as Frank and Will attempt a reverse speeding pursuit of the train and we get to see incredibly-shot filming of some nice stunt work as Pine and Washington take turns physically trying to take control of the train.  Director Scott could have taken the story, based in part on an actual runaway train through Ohio in 2001, in typical directions, but he instead offers a more nuanced pursuit that is more subtle, while still maintaining humor and a number of great action scenes, including multiple attempts to jump on the train from a truck, harrowing train dangling by Pine, and Washington running atop and jumping between railroad cars.    For the film’s climax Scott gives us a chase scene that involves trains doing what we’ve only seen stunt cars do in the past.

In a summer of blockbusters and overly marketed video releases, this less advertised action movie should not be missed.  Rating: 4 of 5 stars. On DVD and Blu-Ray.

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