ReelBob: ‘The Magnificent Seven’
By Bob Bloom
Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven” mixes the right amount of traditional Western with enough of a contemporary anticapitalist vibe to make it palatable to young, modern filmgoers.
Again working with Denzel Washington, Fuqua’s film is long on action, but short on character development.
But who really cares when fancy gunplay and explosions rock the screen and a one-dimensional, blackhearted, despicable industrialist gets his just desserts in the last reel.
And since we live in a more multicultural world, Fuqua’s Old West does not center on six white gunslingers (plus one young Mexican fast-draw) protecting a village of poor Mexican farmers.
Here, we have a diverse group of men led by lawman Sam Chisolm (Washington), aided by card-sharp gunfighter Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), former Confederate sharpshooter Ethan Hawke (Goodnight Robicheaux), ex-Indian fighter Sam Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), knife expert Billy Rocks (Byung–Hun Lee), Mexican bandit Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), protecting the small town of Rose Creek from the ruthless and murderous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his brutal army of hired guns.
The stakes are higher in Fuqua’s world. In John Sturges’ 1960 version, the seven gunfighters — among them Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn — were battling a cadre of bandits, led by Eli Wallach, who annually came to the village to steal food and supplies for the winter.
Here, the townspeople face extermination: Bogue demands that they sell him their land for a mere $20 or be buried under it.
And while it is only business in the 1960 movie — as it was in Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic, “The Seven Samurai,” the original template for both films — here, Chisolm has a personal score to settle.
Fuqua has gathered a solid cast, but with so many actors to cover, he gives most — with the exception of Washington and perhaps Hawke’s PTSD Robicheaux — very little time to explore their character with any depth or complexity.
Unfortunately, that is one of the film’s drawbacks. It lacks the charming little moments that made some of the secondary characters — especially Bronson and a young Horst Buchholz — memorable in Sturges’ movie.
These nostalgic quibbles are not meant to detract from this latest retelling of a tale that is so iconic that it was even transposed into a space opera (“Battle Beyond the Stars”).
This version of “The Magnificent Seven” offers a viciousness and hardscrabble harshness earlier incarnations lacked.
It is a solid Western that tips its 10-gallon hat to the past, as well as providing a political dynamic that resonates with the 21st century.
It’s a film with some humor and herds of courage that will lasso your emotions, have you hissing the bad guys and cheering for the heroes.
What more could you ask for? Saddle up and mosey down to the nearest multiplex, “The Magnificent Seven” is a feature you will want to see.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
3 stars out of 4
(PG-13), graphic and bloody Western violence, language, smoking, mature themes