The Magnificent Seven, 2016.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Byung-Hun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard.
Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.
Since breaking out way back in 2001 with the Training Day Antoine Fuqua’s career has been questionably inconsistent. Last years Southpaw had the grace of a bird attempting to fly whilst attached to a brick, and The Equalizer existed in a nightmare-ish purgatory like state, as if Fuqua himself cared only to hang out with Denzel for a couple of months. In face Olympus Has Fallen, Fuqua’s brainless-Die-Hard-in-the-White-House may be his best work in that time.
So the idea of a perfunctory remake of The Magnificent Seven of which for surely nobody asked, bodes rather poorly. Yet, to Fuqua’s credit, it’s okay, nothing more, nothing less. It plays like a classic western, with a shiny, Hollywood gleam poured generously over it.
The small town of Rose Creek is under the control of the constantly aggravated Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard constantly looking as if on the verge of tears), a villain born out of every Western stereotype. After he burns down the church, forces the sale of their land for a pittance and murders half the town, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) goes searching for vengeance in the form of gun slinging bounty hunter Chisolm. He is tasked with forming a rag-tag group to reclaim the town.
He stumbles upon Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), attempting to emulate the charm of Steve McQueen – a drunk and self-confessed “world’s greatest lover.” Ethan Hawke, a soldier afflicted with PTSD and the only member with actual backstory joins, with his partner-in-crime Billy Rocks (Byung Hun Lee), alongside Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Native American Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) who is effectively a bear.
It isn’t that Fuqua struggles to balance backstory, it’s that he seems to have whole-heartedly forgotten to create a backstory for any of the “Magnificent.” Of the seven, only Ethan Hawke is given something to genuinely grapple with while Chris Pratt, however charming, is given nothing but to whip out-liners and smolder towards the audience.
And Vincent D’Onofrio, oh Vincent D’Onofrio. So impressive in Daredevil, he, rather bafflingly, plays Horne with a voice more in common with a child at a birthday party, hypnotised by helium.
There may be a lack of the personal, but Fuqua has succeeded in casting a wide bunch. There’s something almost delightful in the films totally non-judgmental treatment of minorities.
Where the original allowed for slightly quieter moments, Fuqua opens fast and attempts to maintain the pace for the far to long runtime. In doing so, action sequences lack bite, and where few moments succeed-a series of comical, borderline Blazing Saddles-lite action beats late on genuinely entertain-it’s stretched all too thin. That final battle, itself the entire third act, starts fun, before becoming increasingly tedious.
The Magnificent Seven wants to be new, yet is indebted entirely to the old. It’s treatment of women, of which there is one, herself a damsel sexualised to the point of becoming more reminiscent of a character stepped right out of a lads mag, leaves a bad taste. It has no place amongst the pantheon of the great westerns of yesteryear, but, like those more middling, is acceptable entertainment.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★