Dan's Review: "Magnificent Seven" remake has plenty of western fun
Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee, in The Magnificent Seven - © 2016 Sony/Columbia.
The Magnificent Seven (Sony/Columbia)
Rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Joss, Cam Gigandet, Emil Beheshti, Mark Ashworth.
Written by Written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, based on Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Folks say they don’t make westerns like they used to. Maybe that’s a good thing, since old westerns usually followed a strict formula, with righteousness and evil guys clearly delineated, and the good guys taking down the bad guys followed by a ride off into the sunset. A few films broke the mold, like Shane, The Cowboys, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Wild Bunch and a host of Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. You can add 1960’s The Magnificent Seven to the list as a precursor to the Leone style of bleak odds and less-than predictable outcomes. It was also a film derived from an unlikely source: Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed Seven Samurai. This week, Antoine Fuqua takes a crack at the Japanese classic with his own contemporary version of The Magnificent Seven.
Denzel Washington stars as Chisolm, a bounty hunter who chances upon a recently widowed woman named Emma (Haley Bennett), whose town has been overrun by a robber baron named Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his army of hired guns. Emma offers Chisolm all the money she could collect from the townspeople who dared stand up to Bogue. Later on it’s revealed that Chisolm has a dark history with Bogue, giving him further encouragement to take Emma’s offer. He knows he can’t do it all by himself, so he gathers a team of killers, beginning with a gambler and ladies’ man named Faraday (Chris Pratt), a Mexican criminal named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a confederate Civil War veteran and rifle marksman named “Goodnight” (Ethan Hawke), along with his sidekick a, knife assassin named Billy (Byung-hun Lee). A grisly tracker named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) later joins the team, along with a native American named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
When the gang arrives in Emma’s town, they quickly dispatch of Bogue’s skeleton crew, two of which escape to Sacramento to inform the boss of the “Seven” and their defiance. The gang works fast to recruit and train an army of townsfolk to do battle with the bad guys, and make a plan to fortify the community. Bogue and his men do arrive, and a great battle ensues, with some significant loss of life to the townspeople and Chisolm’s gang.
The Magnificent Seven isn’t a great film by western standards, but it is a very fun film. It has plenty of action, a great cast and a clever-enough script (Pratt gets most of mischievous dialogue, while Denzel serves up a lion’s share of the bravado).
Speaking of the cast, it should be noted that The Magnificent Seven marks a departure for Ethan Hawke (reunited with his Training Day pals Fuqua and Washington), who transitions from leading man status into full character acting. It’s a welcome change, and he delivers the best supporting performance among the ensemble, playing a man with a crisis of conscience over being a merchant of death. The movie should also mark the arrival of Haley Bennett as a true talent, even though she’s the only female cast member who’s required to prominently display her cleavage throughout the entirety of the story. That’s only one of the gratuitous aspects of the movie, including a fair amount of brutal violence and some clumsy gunplay choreography. Even with such quibbles, The Magnificent Seven is indeed a western, albeit with a modern take on the genre.
For those purists who pine for the westerns of 50 years ago, take comfort in the fact that the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven was already derivative, so that ship sailed when Kurosawa got appropriated. In other words, get off your high horse and enjoy the scenery. If you’re patient, you’ll also be rewarded with James Horner’s interpretation of Elmer Bernstein’s classic 1960 musical theme in the end credits (you get a few teases throughout the film). It’s well worth the wait, and gives the new version a magnificent auditory connection to the westerns of old.
The Magnificent Seven Trailer