So what did you think of the director also being the producer?
One of the classic receipes in Hollywood is never to invest in your own movie as it could flop and really only sink your financial boats. Only Lucas I believe was one of the stand outs that invested his own money into StarWars. The other real risk is that you have no feedback to get that popular "Hollywood" sell, since you are putting your own money. As we saw in StarWars 1-3, the love story was horrible despite great actors, the chemistry just didn't work and lines were bad. This could have been avoided with a bit of input into the movie process. In this movie by Fuqua, I think there were none of those dialogue or corny mistakes.
It has a good character build from the beginning establishing the villain taking over a small town for his own mining operation and his ruthlessness to get ahead by any means necessary. It really galvanizes a wife to face off a gang to save her town, land and family. The villain Bartholomew Bogel, played by Peter Sarsgaard has this pure evilness in his eye with pure blind ambition. I think he was well cast and the foreshadowing of the coming brutal showdown. The wife played by Hayley Bennett shows us the earnest hard-work of living in the Wild West coming to face a modern evil character.
What was the middle development of the characters like?
There is this really slow build in the movie, since there is really only one major showdown battle. As there are 7 characters, it really is a challenge to flesh out these characters. One of my favorite in the film is Jack Home played by Vincent D'Onofrio. He usually has this really creepy edge in CSI that is almost on the distasteful. Here his character is challenged by religious believe overcoming his previous scalping career.
Overall, the plot flows nicely, but maybe not as cool as say a Tarantino film would have more humor. This is a pure western shot with all the serious grit you need. Costumes and realism are impeccable from a photography standpoint. The one weakness would be the basic idea that it's a town out to outdo the coming army of Bogel. I think maybe in the character development, the director could have done possibly flashbacks to what happened to develop the characters. Why was Goodnight so gun shy after the Civil War? Why not show it show you really understand why he's become gun shy. Or why was Red Harvest, played by Martin Sensmeir leaving the tribe, what happened that he became an outcast of his tribe? The scene where they first meet is well played by him and the group to show the fearfulness that ran between the tribes and the settlers running for almost two centuries at this point in US History. Many films would miss this nice subltety. In fact, many of the issues of #BlackLivesMatter stem from this fear of civilization vs. Indian attacks and slave revolts that happened for centuries. That mental baggage weighs on the US mentality still to this day.
Unfortunately, I have not yet seen the original set in 1960. The original is ingenious in that it's actually a remake of a Japanese classic "Seven Samarai". I think you really need to compare to that story vs. the 1960 version. Seven Samarai was made 6 years before in 1954.
Do you have any art related to this movie?
Not exactly. The closest theme I covered was the old Marlboro billboards promoting smoking their brand with real-life cowboys. My work is more a commentary on abusing a popular cowboy image to promote cancer.