Movie review: ‘Magnificent Seven’ an engaging re-make of classic western
–There’s something about this story of seven experts defending a town down on its luck that appeals to audiences. In 1954, famed director Akira Kurosawa delivered “Seven Samurai,” about a seven unemployed samurai hired to defend a poor village from bandits. Six years later, in 1960, it was adapted into “The Magnificent Seven,” a western that changed the format to gun slingers and the location to Mexico.
We’ve long since passed the time when westerns were common or the popular form of storytelling, but when they’re done well, it’s still a genre that brings audiences to the theater. That’s what director Antoine Fuqua does with his new version of “The Magnificent Seven.”
The characters and setting have again changed, but the spirit remains the same. Seven men come together to defend a wayward town against a bandit — in this case a land baron who wants to take their town to service his gold mine.
The film begins as Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is trying to bully a small town’s occupants into leaving their homestead so he can take it over. In the wake of her husband’s (Matt Bomer) murder at the hands of Bogue, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) sets out to find champions to help defend her home.
She stumbles across Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a sworn warrant officer who has a history with Bogue. He decides to champion her cause, and quickly works to build a team to help him best Bogue. He recruits a gambler, Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), his friend and former Confederate Sniper, Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), his associate, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a notorious tracker, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Mexican outlaw, Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a lone Indian warrior, Red Harvest ( Martin Sensmeier).
Together the seven unlikely heroes come together to defend the town and prepare its people for an all-out war with Bogue and his mercenary army. They come together for an epic showdown with the future of dozens of innocent town people on the line.
The names and character back stories have changed, but the idea of this story remains the same. Seven strangers with a unique skill set find some note of redemption in helping protect a town of innocent people from a villainous tyrant.
And it’s the perfect kind of film for Fuqua, who’s a strong visual filmmaker that excels with action sequences. In the past he’s done films like “The Replacement Killers,” “King Arthur” and “Training Day,” and he has a great feel for this kind of story. He’s also assembled a strong cast.
The script for the film is written Nic Pizzolatto (“True Detective”) and Richard Wenk (“The Equalizer”). The writers do a nice job of weaving in some humor and building back stories for all the heroes that draws you into the narrative.
The casting works well here, too. Washington is ideal in the lead role in this film. He brings a gravitas to the role, and is totally comfortable in the action sequences. His character carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, and Washington does a nice job of capturing that introspective quality.
The rest of the cast works well, too. Sarsgaard is saddled with a somewhat one-dimensional villain, but makes the most of it. Pratt has fun as the wise-cracking gambler, adding plenty to the humorous moments of the film. And Hawke sinks into his role as a sniper who’s still suffering the effects of what he experienced and saw in war. That helps add depth to this story.
This movie is what you expect it to be. There’s some interesting characters, decent performances and plenty of action. That’s what the Western genre is at its best. The heroes ride into town, save the day and head out again. That’s what you expect from “The Magnificent Seven,” and that’s what you get. And it all comes in a fun and entertaining ride.
“The Magnificent Seven” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.
Three stars out of four.