Movie Reviews

‘The Magnificent Seven’ – A Pop-Western for the Modern Age?

magnificent-seven

Director Antoine Fuqua (‘Training Day’) and his frequent star Denzel Washington collaborate once again for another high-budget, concept-tweaked remake with modern sensibilities in the newly released, ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ to mostly successful results.  It’s hard to criticize the idea of remaking the classic 1960 western of the same name, as that movie itself was a reimagining of the 1954 Akira Kurosawa masterpiece, ‘Seven Samurai.’  The new ‘Seven’ definitely takes its’ cues from the American version, bringing together a group of disparate men (played by both superstars and unknowns), to protect a desperate town under the throes of a despot.

The 2016 ‘Seven’ populates its’ cast with men (and one woman) all in different walks of life, consisting of a variety of races / cultures, a tact that resonates with a more diverse audience as well as reinvigorates both the conflict and ultimate camaraderie of the characters on screen.  The pre-credit sequence effectively sets up the oppression of the town by greedy mining tyrant Bartholomew Bogue (a sniveling, if a tad cartoonish Peter Sardgaard) with an event that leaves Haley Bennett’s Emma Cullen a widow.  This pushes her confident and determined frontierswoman to venture out and start the gathering of the titular seven, starting with Denzel Washington’s no-nonsense, quick-drawing former Union soldier and current bounty hunter Sam Chisolm.  Washington settles easily and comfortably into his first western role as a man completely unaffected by the attention his presence makes in these mostly white outposts of the west, confident in his ability to deal with any situation via his brains and skill.

Understanding that this particular mission of liberation is too much for one man to handle, Washington’s Chisolm sets his sights on recruiting a group of outlaws, criminals, and warriors.  The first in the band is Chris Pratt’s rogue gambler Josh Faraday, hiding a heroic soul looking for a cause behind a flippant façade.  They gather an outlaw, the self-proclaimed ‘Texican’, Vasquez (a mostly one-note Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), an unhinged trapper named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio in all his glory, spitting out non-sequiturs), as well as the former Confederate, legendary sharp-shooter Goodnight Robicheaux (an impressive Ethan Hawke on an arc of redemption) and his constant loyal companion Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee, impressive with both gun and blade).  Finally, to round out the crew, they stumble upon the Comanche tracker and  warrior Red Harvest (a breakout Martin Sensmeier) who provides a haunting and vital presence.

It’s no plot secret that this group will have to train the townsfolk, fight amongst themselves, get into gunfights, drink in saloons, and have quick-draw showdowns in the street, but Fuqua is able to stage familiar scenes in entertaining ways.  It all leads to one of the wildest spectacles in the genre, played unapologetically loud and action-packed.  ‘The Magnificent Seven’ isn’t interested in reinventing the western, commenting on human fascination with violence, or even exploring race relations in ways beyond the idea that there is no color when it concerns brothers-in-arms.  What it sets out and accomplishes is the effective presentation of an old-fashioned western that hits every genre note in a way that caters to a modern general audience . . .

Directed By:  Antoine Fuqua

Written By:  Nic Pizzolatto & Richard Wenk

Rated:  PG-13

Running Time:  132 min.

* * * (out of 4 stars) – OR – B 

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