So what’s on offer in the 2016 version of the classic tale about persecuted villagers enlisting the help of seven deadly strangers to reclaim their town from violent villains?
Certainly the casting of some of contemporary Hollywood’s biggest stars makes for a significant draw card. Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter and the leader of the Seven, who enlists Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday, a gambler with a fondness for explosives, and Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux, a sharpshooter with a recalcitrant trigger finger, stake a claim for a convincing case for viewing this on the big screen, as the trio alone practically justify the price of admission.
The direction from action authority Antoine Fuqua demonstrates his mastery of movie machismo as he tells the tale of bloody revenge for the third time in cinematic history, so that’s another plus.
Add to this mix writer Nic Pizzolatto, creator of True Detective, and it would seem there is a sound reasoning for a ticket purchase. But…..
The original “Seven Samurai” is regularly named as one of the greatest films of all time, influencing everything from Star Wars to Spaghetti Westerns to A Bug’s Life.
The 1960 version starring Yul Brynner as Chris Adams, as a Cajun gunslinger, leader of the seven, Steve McQueen as Vin Tanner, the drifter and
Charles Bronson as Bernardo O’Reilly, the desperate professional, overcame an initial lukewarm reception to become a treasured work heralded as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in American culture.
Sadly there is nothing especially memorable in this updated version, and when the director Fuqua was asked why he chose to remake the film, answered “I wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse,”.
The latest Magnificent Seven offers a simple enough premise, with Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen, a young woman who hires the Seven to avenge the death of her husband at the hands of Bartholomew Bogue, a corrupt gold mining baron played by Peter Sarsgaard.
There is some good banter between the lead characters as they come together in an uncomplicated fashion and prepare the townsfolk for a bloody battle to reclaim their homes.
But unlike the two previous versions of the tale, there’s little in the way of character development or backstory as the film builds to it’s bloody climax, a twenty minute shootout of epic proportions, surprisingly light on blood followed by a confrontation between Chisolm and Bogue, with the gunslinger seeking closure on a past transgression at the hands of the dirty magnate.
Compared to recent examples of the Western genre such as Tarantino’s superb Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, or classics like Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood, The Magnificent Seven falls far short of these lofty triumphs.
Offering a top shelf cast in a bottom drawer script reduces a potential classic to another Denzel Washington multiplex entry.
There are some excellent stunt sequences, some good lines and across the board solid performances, but overall, this macho revenge movie offers little fresh, aside from Denzel Washington on a horse.
Fuqua has said of his motivation whilst remaking the classic – “I kept reminding myself of when I was a 12‑year‑old boy, when I was a kid watching it with my grandmother, what was the feeling I had? How much fun was it? How cool were they? For me, I always had my grandmother in my mind when making a film. Would she enjoy this film?”
My 15 year old son and his mate definitely enjoyed themselves, so I guess it will play well with teens and up these school holidays.
3 Stars – A Modest Macho Movie