Remakes or re-imaginings seem like all the rage these days. This may be due to the fact that the creative minds in Hollywood are running out of novel concepts or because they seem to like returning back to the well of the past where movies are considered iconic and remembered in a fond manner.
Director Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington reunite once again to see if they can create some “Training Day” magic with “The Magnificent Seven,” a remake of a 1960’s Western of the same name, which is a remake of a samurai classic, Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film, “Seven Samurai.”
The original film holds a special place in the pantheon of iconic cowboy Westerns, especially because it stars memorable actors such as Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson.
The opening scene introduces the big, bad antagonist of the film, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a shrewd, corrupt businessman obsessed with mining and a blatant disregard for whatever stands in his way. He has the money to buy anything and anyone.
Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer) takes a brave but slightly naive stand for the town in questioning Bogue’s selfish motivations for personal gain. As a result, he is shot dead by Bogue in front of everyone.
These actions set off a domino effect of motivation for Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), Matthew’s widow, in seeking justice for her town and revenge for her husband’s murder. She proves to be the catalyst for the Seven to get together with her willingness to find justice and her driven personality.
Bogue only gave a sense of danger and fear at the beginning of the film, but as “Magnificent Seven” moves along, he grows less and less menacing.
Fuqua makes it a point to try and adapt these classics for the contemporary audience. He accomplishes this by assembling an all-star cast full of diverse actors from different backgrounds.
Pacing of the movie progresses along rapidly, where Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a warrant officer from Wichita, Kansas and leader of the Seven, assembles his band of misfits with relative ease and rapid succession. This becomes problematic because not all of the Seven’s backstories come to be fully fleshed out.
The first of the Seven to join is Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), a gambler with a love for card tricks and sleight of hand. Besides Washington, Pratt’s character unsurprisingly receives a majority of the screen time. He exudes charisma and drops comic one-liners frequently to help lighten the mood of the plot.
The other members of the Seven include: Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a veteran of the Civil War and an expert sharpshooting marksman; Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), an East Asian immigrant and knife expert who is also Robicheaux’s good friend and partner; Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a mountain man randomly musing life’s ups and downs; Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche warrior.
Each character has a different reason for joining the Seven. Faraday owes Chisolm a favor, Robicheaux is an old acquaintance and Red Harvest joins because Chisolm happens to speak Comanche.
Their motivations for trying to accomplish the impossible seem to be paper thin in holding the group together. Although they are all vastly different, the group of Seven share a chemistry reminiscent of a band of brothers.
Throughout the movie, the use of landscape shots are beautifully created with the camera panning out to highlight the scenery in its entirety, including the trees, mountains and rivers.
Action proves to be fast and fluid with the quick gun-slinging, dagger throwing and explosions occurring left and right. The dead bodies strewn everywhere by the time the film credits begin to roll leave the audience wondering how the Seven came to possess all of this unlimited ammunition to use against the countless hordes of enemies.
Does “The Magnificent Seven” live up to the expectations set by its predecessors of the original “The Magnificent Seven” and “Seven Samurai?” No, not quite, but it does prove itself to be entertaining as a summer blockbuster showing up in the fall season.
“The Magnificent Seven” is rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.
“The Magnificent Seven” is playing in theaters now.