Remakes of iconic films are tricky things. You run the risk of either succumbing to the pressure and just making a carbon copy of what came before or changing things up a little and pissing off fans of the original. Walk carefully, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Southpaw), and keep you gun hand on the ready.
The Magnificent Seven, directed by John Sturges and starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson, was itself a remake of the iconic Japanese film Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa. The Western is largely considered one of the best films of the genre. Wisely when screenwriters Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2, The Mechanic) and Nic Pizzolatto (wrote episodes for the televisions series The Killing and True Detective) and director Fuqua decided to remake the film they changed things up a little. The heart of the film about seven men from different walks of life getting together to fight for something other than themselves, something right, for the first time in their lives, is still there. It is the set-up that has been tinkered with.
In the town of Rose Creek things are not going well at all. The small farming community has been overtaken by wealthy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard – Green Lantern, Flight Plan). Bogue has discovered that there is gold in the valley around the town and wants it. To get his hands on it he wants all the farmers’ land and offers them a pittance for it. When I say offers I mean to say that he gives them no choice. Either they sell to him, and lose everything they built, or he will kill them. He has hired a veritable army to back up his threats.
After he burns the church to the grown and kills Emma Cullen’s (Haley Bennett – The Girl on the Train, Marley & Me) husband Matthew (Matt Bomer – from television’s American Horror Story) in cold blood, she and another town resident take the opportunity when lawman Chisholm (Denzel Washington – American Gangster, Fences) passes nearby to offer him all the money they have to rid them of Bogue.
Something about their situation makes its mark on Chisholm and he agrees. He now sets about rounding up a team of six other men to take part in this fight against tall odds. Gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt – Passengers, Guardians of the Galaxy), Civil War sharpshooter Goodnight Robichaux (Ethan Hawke – Before Sunset, Boyhood), his brother-in-arms Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee – G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Red 2), mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio – Full Metal Jacket, Men in Black), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Fulfo – Cake, Bless Me, Ultima), and an Indian banished by his tribe, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier – from television’s Salem) all agree to attempt to rid the town of Bogue.
Once the seven men accomplish the first step of killing all of Bogue’s men in Rose Creek, Chisholm sends the lone survivor, the sheriff, back to Bogue with the message that if he wants the land he is going to have to come to town and fight for it. Now, the seven men set about coming up with a plan that will even the odds a little and train those townspeople left alive.
If the underdog Western’s story isn’t enough to draw you in then the first notes of the film’s famous theme song surely will. This is the type of old fashioned Western (with some more modern touches) that awakens the kid in all of us. We all at one time or another pretended to be a gunslinger/cowboy. The Magnificent Seven is the type of film we all want to be good and love. While this film is in no way perfect it is a fun watch, filled with talented and likeable actors and entertaining.
With Denzel Washington in it you know he is going to play a cool and eerily calm character. Chris Pratt is there to add some humour amidst all the action and shoot ’em ups. Vincent D’Onofrio adds another oddball to his repetoire. The cool part of the ensemble cast is the variety. Variety of style and ethnicity. Brings to light characters we don’t usually see in Westerns. A black lawman. A native on the good guys’ side. An Asian. You get the picture.
The highlight of the film is definitely the action. Explosions, fires, gunfights, knives and axes, and plenty of action on horseback. You have a little of everything and a lot of action. It all happens at 100 miles and hour. It is noisy and big. Everything you could want from a modern Western.
That being said there are some flaws in Fuqua’s film. Some of the dialogue is stilted. There is very little that happens that you cannot see coming from a country mile. Precious little character development and what we do get about the seven seems like an afterthought and rushed. The villains are underwhelming. There are a lot, but they are not really intimidating. Plus Sarsgaard’s Bogue is just plain strange.
-Directing The Seven
-The Taking of Rose Creek
-Previews of Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Inferno, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Passengers, Don’t Breathe