The Magnificent Seven
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Get 30 coffins ready…
Remakes. At best, you might get a sequel or two out of old material. At worst, well, the movie bombs, no one cares, and old-school fans just shake their heads and go about their business. For every Ocean’s Eleven, there’s a Robocop, Clash of the Titans and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For every Fistful of Dollars – a Karate Kid, Planet of the Apes and Conan the Barbarian. With all the unnecessary sequels (Jason Bourne, Bridget Jones’ Baby), superhero stories (Marvel and DC et al), video game and novel adaptions… it’s no secret Hollywood is out of ideas.
Enter the Magnificent Seven. Again! John Sturges’ 1960 tale of a wandering gunfighter who is tasked with recruiting more of his ilk into helping out some terrorised farmers – was an old story even then. It was itself a (decent) remake of Akira Kurusawa’s epic masterpiece The Seven Samurai. Cleverly supplanting the setting of feudal Japan for the old west for American audiences, it stayed true to the spirit of the original. Themes of justice, honour, loyalty, community and brotherhood are all there. It also had a good dose of humour and charm, thanks to a script that crackled with cocky dialogue like “we deal in lead, friend.” But where it truly shined was in its characters: hard-bitten laconic men with dry wits and well-greased triggers, and hands fast enough to give a coroner work for weeks.
A no-nonsense bounty hunter
In their third collaboration (after Training Day and The Equaliser) Antoine Fuqua casts Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, a no-nonsense bounty hunter who gets employed by a woman who lost her husband to help defend her town. If you’ve seen the original film, then you know the story. The writers never stray from the structure of the original. This is the kind of remake that isn’t afraid to drink deep from the well of the original. Points then, must be give to Fuqua and his writers for staying true to the story concept and sticking to their, uh, rifles.
It certainly doesn’t lack star power either.
Washington heads up the seven (originally Yul Bryner’s role), with Chris Pratt’s slick-fingered trickster doing his best wing-man (Steve McQueen he ain’t, though). Vincent D’nofrio is on gentle giant duties, whereas the rest of the cast is rounded out by a Mexican, a Korean, and a Comanche warrior (and yes they all walk into a bar at some point). Finally, standing out from the banditos and bad men is Ethan Hawke’s sharpshooter, a soldier haunted by the souls he’s taken in the war. Hawke has become quite the character actor, and he’s one of the only thesps that gets real meat to chew here.
So how does it compare? I missed the slow building of the relationship between the farmers and the fighters. The juxtaposition of killers working side by side with the simple folk that secretly (and not so secretly) despise them, gave the original characters so much more depth and weight (even more so in Kurusawa’s version). But instead of these developments, we get more action. A LOT more. Seriously, I haven’t seen this many men falling through glass since a 90s, pre-buffet Steven Seagal film. It’s all good fun, and though it may miss the mark with the character development, it’s a simple story well told, and for this generation at least, offers up some solid, bang-for-buck entertainment.
DIRECTED BY: Antoine Fuqua
SCREENPLAY BY: Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk
PRODUCED BY: Roger Birnbaum, Todd Black
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Walter Mirisch, Antoine Fuqua, Bruce Berman, Ben Waisbren
CAST: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Peter Sarsgaard
The Magnificent Seven – The Review