Not nearly as magnificent as the 1960 version --- remakes rarely are --- starring Yul Brynner in Denzel Washington's role here, "The Magnificent Seven" was originally a re-do of the 1954 Japanese film "Seven Samurai". In the 1960 film, Brynner and his gang were protecting a small Mexican village from Eli Wallach. Now, Washington and his crew have come to the aid of the residents of Rose Creek, a mining town which has been taken over by a maniacal industrialist.
Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is a bully and a cold-blooded killer. He runs a mine with slave labor and has shot and killed a few of the local farmers in Rose Creek, led by Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer). His young, pretty wife, Emma (Haley Bennett), is determined to recover the town from Bogue and goes in search of help with her friend, Teddy Q (Luke Grimes).
In the next town, they happen upon bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) and beg for his help. He's not interested until he hears Bogue's name mentioned. An old score with Bogue causes him to accept their offer and he begins to assemble his hired hands. Once the group --- all seven --- are recruited, they head to Rose Creek for a standoff with the uber-evil Bogue.
The 1960 movie has always been a favorite of mine. I absolutely loved Brynner, Steve McQueen and Horst Buchholz. It was such a thrill to watch those seven gunslingers outwit the always-marvelous Wallach. As I mentioned, remakes never usually match up, and that is the case here.
The cast is admirable, with Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Vincent D'Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier completing the seven. Every one of them is believable in their role, with Lee and D'Onofrio being the stand-outs. I can't even imagine what the set must have been like with all of that testosterone.
Washington makes a terrific sharpshooter and leader of this eclectic band. He's as cool as ever and doesn't overplay his machismo, unlike Sarsgaard, who acts deranged, at best. Director Antoine Fuqua should have reined him in a tad.
Bennett is fair as the feisty townsperson who is the only one from her small town with the "balls" --- her word, not mine --- to do something about their situation. Note to screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, I don't believe women in the 1870's used the phrase " have some balls", but I could be wrong. Typical, though, poor Emma is always in low cut dresses or tops, even galloping across the prairie or shooting at Bogue's henchmen. And, of course, she's the only townswoman dressed that way, except for the "ladies" of the saloon. Seriously, could we please stop objectifying the women folk?
"The Magnificent Seven" is not a bad film. I actually liked it, as opposed to David. But, alas, it's not the 1960 version. And we don't get to hear the magnificent score until the very end --- c'est dommage!
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
The inevitable comparisons between the original "The Magnificent Seven" (1960) and the newly released version directed by Antoine Fuqua can yield only one response --- there is no comparison. And it starts with a look at the cast.
Let's see --- Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, and a few other guys you never heard of --- vs. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Eli Wallach and Robert Vaughn? Talk about a mismatch.
Don't get me wrong, I love Denzel in any role. But no one can favorably match up with the late, great Brynner, the man in black, who led the band of miscreants in the first film to rid a small Mexican village of nasty marauders. Denzel is likewise dressed from hat to boots in black, and his character must deal with the racism that comes with a cowboy town in 1876. But one of the highlights of the first film was the recruitment of six more gunslingers by Brynner's lead character. (Actually, one was an expert knife thrower, a role duplicated here with ho-hum effect).
The hiring effort in the 2016 version to come up with the magic number of seven is far less entertaining --- it's almost a rush to get through it so Fuqua can focus on the elongated shootout that is to follow. And how is it that these six gunmen, plus one Indian who never misses with a bow and arrow, are so impeccably perfect in their aim? It matters not if they're stumbling around on the ground or falling off a horse --- they never miss their target!
One of our heroes manages to survive at least three gunshots to the body long enough to pull off the most important tactic of the fight against the evil Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his seemingly endless army of bad guys. The film also suffers from a cliched ending where the revenge-seeking heroine, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) appears in the nick of time to save a main character.
One memorable aspect of the original was the Oscar-nominated score by Elmer Bernstein. It is one of the most recognizable --- and stirring --- pieces of music to ever come out of a movie, but for some reason, we don't hear it in the new version until the closing credits.
Fuqua's directing counterpart from the 1960 film was John Sturges, who helmed "The Great Escape" --- a classic World War II adventure with McQueen, Bronson and Coburn --- plus iconic westerns "Bad Day at Black Rock" and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral". Fuqua, meanwhile, has previously teamed with Denzel on two far superior pictures, "Training Day" (2001) and "The Equalizer" (2014). "The Magnificent Seven" 2016-style carries none of the electricity of Fuqua's earlier efforts. Denzel is at his best when he confronts nefarious individuals face-to-face, as opposed to the mostly impersonal. i.e., far away, conflicts he endures here.
"The Magnificent Seven" also reunites Fuqua with his frequent cinematography collaborator, Mauro Fiori, Oscar-winner for "Avatar". But despite being filmed primarily in Arizona, there are precious few memorable shots to take away from this movie.
And the fact that the MPAA saw to rate this film PG-13 speaks volumes about its insensitivity to violence. One close-up of a woman's breast, I suspect, and "The Magnificent Seven" would have earned an "R". But men being shot, stabbed, bashed in the head and pierced with flying arrows is much less offensive --- not to mention the lack of realistic language. These are very bad people. Even the good guys should be throwing around an occasional "F" bomb, but there are none to be heard.
I wasn't expecting much of this remake, other than to determine if it should have been remade in the first place. And the answer is a clear "no" -- not the greatest use of $95,000,000.
Opinion: Mild Wait for DVD