IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 133 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In 1879, corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bogue besieges the mining town of Rose Creek, and slaughters a group of locals led by Matthew Cullen when they attempt to stand up to him. Matthew’s wife Emma and her friend Teddy Q ride to the nearest town in search of someone who can help them and come upon bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, who initially declines their proposal until he learns of Bogue’s involvement. Chisolm sets out to recruit a group of gunslingers who can help him, starting with gambler Josh Faraday. They are later joined by sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux, knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks, skilled tracker Jack Horne, Comanche warrior Red Harvest and notorious Mexican outlaw Vasquez….
Having recently sat through poor remakes of Kickboxer [weak], Ben Hur [lousy] and Ghostbusters [appalling], this reboot of a Western favourite came as a pleasant surprise. In some ways it’s not so much a remake of the 1965 John Sturges film as it is one of the 1954 Akira Kurosawa masterpiece Seven Samurai, while the basic story has worked well in other genres like Battle Beyond The Stars and A Bug’s Life, so realistically it was actually unlikely that Antoine Fuqua’s film would totally screw up a premise which can result in so tension, character interplay, heroism and just damn good fun. There’s been some complaining about its supposed PC revisionism, something I normally can’t abide, but in this case I feel that the complaints are wrong as the Wild West was a far more culturally diverse place than tends to be usually depicted in movies. In any case, having such different people populate the seven does give the proceedings an interesting dimension even if the white folks still end up being better characterised than the non-white ones. There’s not always quite enough chemistry between these characters, but the story proceeds at a nice steady pace, avoiding the temptation to throw constant gun fights at us, and nicely builds up to a terrific 20 minute or so action climax where Fuqua shows off how good he is at this sort of thing, though I wished that the skills of each character were shown more.
This is a rather grittier movie than the 1965 one, with the violence pretty vicious in a way that made me wonder why it didn’t get the film a ‘15’ certificate, though Fuqua and his cinematographer Mauro Fiore’s penchant for dimly lit interiors goes rather too far and makes some scenes not too easy to make out. Unfortunately, a story which used to be about doing a good thing has now been altered to include a heavy revenge element, while scenes appear to be obviously missing here and there. Denzel Washington is his usual cool self though Chris Pratt remains as bland as ever. The most entertaining performance is from Peter Sarsgaard who seems to play the main villain as if he’s plastered. The last ever film score from the late James Horner [I actually feel sad that I’ll never hear his ‘danger motif’ in a cinema again] succeeds by mostly avoiding Elmer Bernstein’s iconic work though that wonderful theme does appear in the end titles. Speaking as one who is utterly sick of all these remakes lazy Hollywood is constantly giving us at the moment, I really rather enjoyed this incarnation of The Magnificent Seven. It’s no classic, but is a solid Western – think of something more along the lines of Silverado or Tombstone than much older Westerns – that fans of the genre really ought to give a chance.