Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Magnificent Seven

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Byung-hun Lee

Director: Antoine Fuqua

133 minutes (12) 2016
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Sony blu-ray region B

Rating: 7/10
Review by Christopher Geary

Modernised rather than being revisionist, this unexpectedly good remake of director John Sturges’ classic 1960 western pulls together a main cast, led by Denzel Washington (The Equalizer remake), and Chris Pratt (from Guardians Of The Galaxy), and eagerly updates the story of mercenaries charged with an heroic mission. When mining town Rose Creek is taken over by capitalist bully Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the cowed townsfolk are led by newly widowed Emma (Haley Bennett) into hiring assorted sharpshooters led by vengeful Chisolm (Washington), and Farraday (Pratt). The line-up includes a legendary killer named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), and his knife-throwing protégé Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), infamous scalp-hunter Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), usually at odds with Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and the one that few will remember, Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).

With its entirely new batch of gunslingers, the drama applies a considerable effort for the task of establishing the characters in meticulous detail, while also surrendering to a need for creating suspense using narrative elements like the foreshadowing of crosses in some carefully framed shots. As director, Antoine Fuqua boasts an excellent track record with a CV featuring a high standard of action pictures, including his remarkable cinematic debut The Replacement Killers (1998), the special-ops mission Tears Of The Sun (2003), tribal adventure King Arthur (2004), assassination thriller Shooter (2007), White House home-invasion Olympus Has Fallen (2013), and - following cop drama Training Day (2001), and vigilante thriller The Equalizer (2014) - this is Fuqua’s third outing with Washington as its star. Considering the filmmaker’s genre-surfing, use of superb character-actors in central roles, and keen avoidance of obvious political realism in favour of playful stylisation, it is perhaps quite surprising that Fuqua never succumbs to any of the glaring faults of movie hipster Tarantino, or his various deluded copycats.

Rich in spectacle, extraordinarily well-paced, and building steadily towards a foreseeable, but nonetheless exciting climax of gun-play, Fuqua’s movie fully deserves a whole family audience, because it eschews the authentically messy qualities of Kevin Costner’s Open Range (2003), or the elegiac tone of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992), for something that is much closer to evoking the same re-energised traditions of personal integrity and larger-than-life heroism as Lawrence Kasdan’s equally magnificent Silverado (1985).

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