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Fuqua's Revisionist West: The Magnificent Seven
The movie remake of The Magnificent Seven takes place in a western mining community called Rose Creek in 1879. Some of the residents have taken exception to the way mine owner Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) controls the town. Bart, however, knows about the dissension, and joins his hired hands in an ambush on them in the Rose Creek church. Among the people killed by Bogue and his men is the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett). She and a companion ride to another town to find someone who will stand up to Bogue and his men. In that town they meet Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter who knows Bogue. When she hands him all of the money the town owns, he agrees to take up their cause.
On the way back to town, Chisolm recruits men he knows to help. Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) is a gambler skilled with guns and explosives. His old friend Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a retired sharpshooter, tours the west with Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a skilled knife fighter. Another old friend is Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), an expert tracker. Chisolm strikes a deal with the Mexican outlaw known as Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) to get him to join them. The final member of the team is Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche warrior who fell out of favor with his tribe. When they ride into Rose Creek, they confront Bogue's lawmen and eliminate most of them in battle. One of them heads off to tell Bogue, leaving Chisolm's team one week to prepare the townsfolk and themselves for Bogue's all-out assault.
The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake, both of which are better than Antoine Fuqua's safe retelling of the 1960 western, which was based on the Japanese film The Seven Samurai. In Fuqua's version, the characters are who they are without any hint of subtlety. They work together with a common purpose, but the bonds between them don't seem strong. I wonder how having Chisolm as a leader would really have played in 1879. I suspect not as well as portrayed here. Fuqua's film, with a script co-written by True Detective creator Nic Piccolatto, is decent, and slightly less self-indulgent and revisionist than The Hateful Eight. The Magnificent Seven is predictable and not as engaging as its predecessors.
This remake relies on the charisma of its actors. This marks the first appearance in a western for both Washington and Pratt, and they deliver their usual solid work. Washington makes his toughness clear in an early scene where he confronts a bartender he recognizes as a wanted man. Chisolm waits for the man to make a wrong move before dispatching him. He uses his skill as a duly appointed lawman to find the right allies and to prepare Rose Creek for battle. Pratt has fun as Faraday, a gambler who knows sleight of hand, but means an entirely different kind of business in armed confrontation. Hawke and D'Onofrio have some good moments as men who have known their share of battles, while Lee, Garcia-Rulfo, and Sensmeier complement the others in their small roles. Sardgaard makes a good bad guy, but all the viewers get is a man with bad and selfish intent.
In an era filled with remakes and reboots, I liked The Magnificent Seven, but it is very undistinguished, even without comparison to its source material. I don't mind a little bit of nostalgia, but I'd rather see the original version of this western or The Seven Sanurai again. Those films have stood some test of time, and I think that will be the case for at least a few more years. Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven has sufficient strength, but is hardly magnificent. It's just there for light enjoyment.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Magnificent Seven three stars. The Adequate Seven is a better title of this remake.