Film review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, from ‘Built For Speed’

The original Magnificent Seven is a Hollywood classic which transposed Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai to the wild west of America; Seven Samurai having itself been inspired by Hollywood westerns. Now director Anton Fuqua has remade The Magnificent Seven with a cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgaard.

Given the dire record of classic film remakes and the fact that Fuqua is responsible for the execrable The Equaliser, cinema-goers would be forgiven for extreme trepidation going into The Magnificent Seven. Surprisingly, this film isn’t awful and actually delivers a reasonably entertaining western-themed action movie.

As in the 1960 classic, this film sees old-west townspeople who are suffering under the rule of a murderous robber baron – in this case the sleazy Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard) – hire a deadly but unpredictable band of seven mercenaries to defend them. The mercenaries are led by ice cool bounty hunter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) who recruits reprobate gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), ludicrously named gentleman war veteran Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Chinese knife throwing expert Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), man-mountain Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) who looks like a cross between Grizzly Adams and Santa Claus and taciturn Comanche, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

The film’s first half mostly involves Chisholm assembling his misfit team while the latter part of the film features the epic gun battle between Chisholm’s band of outlaws and the sneaky Bogue’s army of hired guns, corrupt lawmakers and Blackstone agents. Much of the action is dynamic and inventively shot if a little too slick and at times confusingly edited. There’s an exceptionally high body count but little blood or gore.

A film like this can’t just rely on explosive action scenes, the characters’ need to make an impact. While the seven hired warriors are distinctive, mostly likeable and even amusing, they’re not given enough back story so none of them, with the possible exception of Ethan Hawke’s troubled Civil War vet have any emotional depth. The film would have been much more powerful if the characters were more emotionally complex and troubled so that the final battle represented a catharsis for their disturbed souls. Instead they’re mostly wise cracking action heroes and oddballs. Still, Denzel Washington is charismatic as the lethal but compassionate Chisholm. Also, Hayley Bennett, who some may recall as the Britney-esque pop diva from the Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore rom-com Music and Lyrics, impresses as the feisty widow who seeks out angel of death Chisholm. Chris Pratt is a little too arrogant, though, as the cheeky cad Faraday while Sarsgaard isn’t menacing enough as the villain and seems to be impersonating John Malkovich. Also, some of the characters aren’t given enough screen time, particularly Vasquez and Red Harvest.

Fuqua is known more for the grimy urban settings of Training Day and The Equaliser than expansive outdoor vistas but he makes reasonable use of the stunning New Mexico landscape even if the film is shot with a grainy and grimy colour scheme.

It’s highly unlikely that this Magnificent Seven will attain anything like the iconic status of the original but it should satisfy those looking for escapist entertainment and some reasonably ballsy action.

Nick’s rating: ***.

Genre: Western/ action.

Classification: M.

Director: Anton Fuqua.

Release date: 29th Sept 2016.

Running time: 133 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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