The Magnificent Seven is part of Hollywood folklore. The Western was famously adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai, starting a trend of Hollywood mining foreign cinema for original ideas. But its timeless story of good (sort of) vs evil (definitely) is one for the ages, hence Training Day director Antoine Fuqua making the bold decision to remake a pretty perfect remake, for a millennial audience.
Reteaming with Denzel Washington, who despite being dressed head to toe in actor Lee Van Cleef’s favourite black, is firmly Team Good, was his first excellent decision. Washington takes over the role made famous by Yul Brynner, playing Sam Chisholm, the leader of the group who eventually reach number seven, and his Training Day co-star Ethan Hawke also joins the reunion.
The plot is essentially the same as the 1960 version; seven outlaws are hired to wipe out a bloodthirsty capitalist who wants all the land in the town of Rose Creek for gold prospecting. In the original, American actor Eli Wallach adopted a ridiculous Mexican accent to play a sombrero-wearing villain. This time round the baddie is Trump-like megalomaniac named Bartholomew Bogue, played by a sweaty looking Peter Sarsgaard, who uses his army to kill anyone standing in the way of his land grab, even burning down the local church to force the people of Rose Creek to fall in line.
After being convinced by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a spunky widow bent on defending her homestead, Chisholm sets about recruiting a diverse troupe of cold killers to defend the town in a crusade that becomes more important to them all, and this is where the similarities end.
Chris Pratt stars as wise-cracking Josh Faraday, who provides much of the comic relief, but is handy with dynamite and a gun. Vincent D’Onofrio is Jack Horne, a grizzly mountain man who lives by his wits and kills like a wild animal. Korean actor Byung-hun Lee plays knife expert Billy Rocks, Hawke’s best friend. Hawke is Goodnight Robicheaux, a Confederate sharpshooter once known as the Angel of Death but killing has taken its toll on him. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is Vasquez, a ‘Texican’ with trust issues, while Martin Sensmeier steals the show as Red Harvest, the quiet Comanche in face paint, with the deadliest aim with a bow and arrow.
Stylistically the film doesn’t have the sweeping vistas of a traditional Western, and the action is limited to within a small arena, which adds to the sense of a town under siege, especially as the film approaches its climax.
Washington helms the team with the sense of gravitas we’ve come to expect and a total belief in his mission, that eventually sees everyone fall into line, even if they did join the crusade for selfish reasons initially.
Its diverse casting has sparked plenty of conversation, but while it doesn’t go further than an aesthetic change, no doubt boys and girls across all cultures will delight in seeing themselves represented in a big Hollywood movie.
Fuqua handles the action set pieces well as the final scenes play out in a thrilling manner.
While it may not be Apache on the original Hollywood version (groan), The Magnificent Seven is still an all round entertaining film, underscored by some solid performances.
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