DIR: Antoine Fuqua • WRI:Richard Wenk, Nic Pizzolatto • PRO: Roger Birnbaum, Todd Black • DOP: Mauro Fiore • ED: John Refoua • MUS: Simon Franglen, James Horner • CAST: Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, Matt Bomer
Remakes, remakes, remakes – as far as the eye can see! There is nothing new under the sun, and if there was, Hollywood would find a way to make it seem hackneyed and trite. So let’s get that part out of the way – remakes are awful, they’re lazy, and they serve no purpose other than to squeeze a few more dollars out of nostalgic suckers who want to see their favourite childhood movies with better production on the big screen. BUT – if you have to remake, reimagine, or revisit an old story… you can do a whole lot worse than a classic Western. And if you have to do any of the above, replacing Steve McQueen with America’s Sweetheart Chris Pratt can really help ease the pain of repetition…
On to the rest of this ragtag group of misfits and their Western adventure! If you don’t already know the general story, a small town is beset by hired gunslingers, (updated from banditos for our modern climate), led by violent American magnate Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). He has found gold in them there hills, and wants the entire town out of the area so that he can mine, prospect and pan for his money – and he’s not afraid to kill some folks to make his point. The town suffers many losses, and while out searching for more ammunition to fight back, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) chances upon a bounty hunter taking care of business. This particular one, Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), is a dab hand at shooting to kill, but has a soft spot for hopeless cases. When he discovers a past connection to the very rogue who threatens the town, he can’t help but come to their aid. But there’s no way he can do it alone. Assembling a motley crew of gunfighters and down-on-their-luck battlers, he plans to defend the town with – you’ve guessed it – seven men. First up is the gambler, Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), who joins in order to get back his beloved horse – lost in a bet, naturally – and brings some joviality to the venture. Next up is war vet Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a sharpshooter from the Civil War who has some secrets of his own. Goodnight is running with Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a fiercely loyal lethal assassin who can kill anyone, Bourne-style, with any object. Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) is a Mexican outlaw with a hell of a shot and a runaway mouth, and Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio stealing the show!) is a hilarious redneck religious tracker from the mountains. While making their way back to the town they come across Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), who joins this group of law-avoiding but eventually-honourable men…and so there were seven! With the first part of the movie thus taken up with establishing – in an entertaining manner – the men themselves, the second half digs into the nitty gritty of why they have come together. As with the original, they train the town to use firearms to defend themselves, become more caring despite their best efforts, and begin a hopeless battle where they are outmatched, outmanned and outgunned.
The movie is fairly prosaic, and has the usual amount of throwback nostalgia you’d expect from something like this, but the star power is an undeniable draw… and everyone is having serious fun with it. There is a real devotion to the Western feel – with gunfights to highlight how great battle scenes were before CGI and infra-red/motion-detectors used by gadget-happy fighters who can take four or five bullets before they die. The purity of the Western gunfight is a thing of beauty – and all it needs is bags of guns, and lots of shooting.
The Magnificent Seven, 2016 version, is never going to be mistaken for a fantastic movie – few remakes ever are. Coming from Antoine Fuqua, whose best credit is 2001’s Training Day, hopes weren’t necessarily that high – but he has brought the requisite amount of humour, nostalgia and good old-fashioned cowboy-shooting to a genre that never fails to excite. Westerns aren’t going anywhere, and as much as I am loathe to bolster Hollywood’s nostalgia-happy speeding train, this wasn’t the worst remake I’ve seen. It’s entertaining, fun, has good actors, great gunfights, and I didn’t feel the long running time. While missing the gravity of Yul Brynner or Charles Bronson, those involved inhabit the Western world with zeal, and bring a weight of real effort to their roles. In the end, it’s a pretty authentic reimagining of a classic story, and as remakes go, it’s not half bad.
12A (See IFCO for details)
The Magnificent Seven is released 23rd September 2016