Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard
Westerns are pure American mythology, you’d think… The Magnificent Seven is based on a classic Akira Kurosawa film, Seven Samurai. Talented director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) tries to update the story with a multi-ethnic cast and some clever lines. But this is just amore violent, shallower copy.
“I seek righteousness, but I’ll take revenge,” says Emma Cullen (Bennett) after her husband is killed in cold blood.
This trope is in almost all Westerns so, even said with conviction, it feels like a cliché. In fact, much of this film does.
The 1879 town is Rose Creek. It’s land sits on gold. Megalomaniacal meany Peter Sarsgaard comes into town, torches the church, and shoots some people. Our righteous widow, wringed in grief, hires Washington to wipe out the villain and his poison posse. Washington hires a bunch of other badass losers; all are are gifted in death. They bond for a while, and then all Hell breaks loose.
If y’all are looking for something different than the original or the American 1960 film, y’all better mosey on elsewhere.
First of all, every one of the bounty hunters is supposedly an ornery cuss. Yet, they’re pretty noble here, signing on to this suicide mission a little too quickly.
Secondly, Fuqua doesn’t explore the diversity of the casting.
Oh, there are some funny lines. These seven men face an army; Pratt’s character says, “They’ll be killed by the world’s greatest lover.”
Still I miss some of the old lines. In the 1960 version, one bounty hunter is asked why he’d take on an impossible task, whether it’s because he’s destitute. The dirty, grizzled man replies, “No, I’m just an eccentric millionaire.”
And the earlier US version had that amazing Elmer Bernstein score. Luckily, there’s a bit of it at the end of this one.
The few other changes remain undeveloped. Hawke’s sharpshooter Goodnight has an elaborate backstory worthy of its own movie. Other characters – the more minority Native American and Mexican heroes – hardly get any development at all.
Washington looks comfortable in the saddle, even in his anachronistic black hat. Pratt seems to have fun, and Hawke brings a gravitas to his role. They and villain Sarsgaard say all the good lines.
Technically, Fuqua does film it well. The visuals are appropriately sepia and dust-filled, and the high quality digital keeps everything in high contrast. Furthermore, Fuqua does what he can with a film that simmers until it explodes. He handles the violence without going overboard – even though the body count is astounding.
However, we’ve seen it all before. This is what we get for watching a copy of a copy, the quality degenerating every time it’s duplicated. It’s like another day in the same dusty town.