The farming community of Rose Creek is under siege. It 1879, we’re in the Old West and industrialist scumbag Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) has sent his men to intimidate the gentle people of Rose Creek, so he can buy their land cheaply and strip mine it. These bad men confront the townspeople in church. In the violence that follows, they kill Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer) one of the few farmers to stand up to them. Bogue’s henchmen leave, telling the townsfolk they have three weeks to sell up and vacate.
Cullen’s widow, Emma (Haley Bennett) travels to a nearby town looking to recruit gunfighters to oppose Bogue and his mercenaries. She finds Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), whom many think of as an outlaw bounty hunter, but he is a sworn warrant officer who rounds up bad guys legally. He signs up gambler and quickdraw specialist Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), sniper Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knife assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), outdoorsman and tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). This team of seven travel to Rose Creek to face up to Bogue’s army of hundreds. Their pay is poor, the cause is just and the odds are stacked against them.
This 2016 iteration of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is probably best viewed by audiences who don’t know the original THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) or the movie it is based on, SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) . For these lucky viewers, director Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY, THE EQUALISER) has prepared and executed a modern Western for contemporary tastes.
If you’re a Generation X-er who saw the 1960 MAGNIFICENT SEVEN like the current writer, repeated multiply on Saturday afternoons, then you are unlikely to be enticed away from the 1960 vision of the story. That movie, directed by journeyman John Sturges, had Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen leading the good guys and Eli Wallach leading the marauders. This flick was Sturges’ very best and was a high water mark in late period Hollywood Westerns. It is premature to expect the remake to attain this kind of cultural weight.
Speaking of culture, but reaching for a sword, rather than a gun, Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI is a ground-breaking picture of incalculable influence on filmmaking. So Fuqua’s decision to take on a remake of a remake with this kind of pedigree shows a healthy level of director ballsiness and confidence.
Fuqua’s TM7 (has anyone called it that?) is in safe hands with Washington who embodies the kind of star quality required to anchor a big budget ensemble actioner. The team is solid and the director knows how to get the most out of the lightly sketched recruiting sequence. Character development is severely lacking, however Fuqua knows how to land a moment visually and emotionally and keeps the audience hooked.
The resulting package is a blend of old fashioned and new fangled. It’s kinetic, violent, slickly-made big screen entertainment. The pacing is mostly good, however this 133 minute movie could be shorter and tighter. I found the final confrontation overlong, which is standard in cinematic blockbusters these days, but standard isn’t the same as mandatory.
If you’re looking for an epic Western shootout with charismatic stars and an astronomical body count, then plunk down your hard currency to see this non-stop action blockbuster right now. It’s in cinemas all over Oz.