The Magnificent Seven
dir Antoine Fuqua
prd Roger Birnbaum, Todd Black
scr Nic Pizzolatto, Richard Wenk
with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Cam Gigandet
release US/UK 23.Sep.16
16/US MGM 2h12
The Magnificent Seven
Hot shots: Washington and Pratt

hawke bennett sarsgaard
venice film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Magnificent Seven With broad strokes, Antoine Fuqua's remake of the 1960 classic (itself a remake of Kurosawa's 1954 masterpiece Seven Samurai) is big, loud and entertaining enough to hold the interest amid a sea of Wild West cliches. The characters and morality couldn't be more simplistic, but the actors invest witty energy that makes up for the predictable plot and glorified bloodshed. In other words, it's utterly unnecessary, but audiences love this macho fluff.

In a quiet village in the middle of nowhere, greedy gold miner Bogue (Sargaard) uses murder to intimidate the farmers into giving him their land, for no apparent reason. So recently widowed Emma (Bennett) hires gunslinger Chisolm (Washington) to assemble a team to take back the town. And it's a band of rogues: fast-talking, hard-drinking, sharpshooting Faraday (Pratt); jittery but legendary Goodnight (Hawke); woolly mountain main Jack (D'Onofrio); knife-throwing Billy (Lee); desperado Vasquez (Garcia-Rulfo); and Comanche loner Red Harvest (Sensmeier). Their challenge is to whip these meek farmers into shape before Bogue's army arrives.

It's a great premise, but writers Pizzolatto and Monk strip all complexity away. Sarsgaard is pure evil, literally walking through fire in the opening scene. Everyone else is heroic, with each variety represented: cool and calm (Washington), cheeky and charming (Pratt), wise and quirky (D'Onofrio), messy but loyal (Garcia-Rulfo), quiet but lethal (Lee and Sensmeier). Bennett adds some vital feminine energy, making Emma's pluckier than all the men put together.

Fuqua directs epically, with grand landscapes and a huge Western-style score. Whole towns have been constructed in the wilderness, apparently a day before filming, since they don't even look as weathered as the title typography. But there's an energetic flow to both the escalating action and the cursory interpersonal drama. And the actors are terrific at delivering snappy one-liners that keep the movie feeling lighter than the hyper-violence suggests (albeit cynically edited down to a PG-13). As a result, the film is a lot of fun to watch, kind of like those mindless Taken-style action movies.

Even so, the problem with including so many stereotypical characters, situations and lines of dialog is, of course, that the film begins to resemble a spoof. And a rather unfunny one at that. So even though Kurosawa and his cowriters are credited for their original script, there's a nagging sense that the real inspiration here was Blazing Saddles. Although Fuqua would never have the nerve to go for Brooks' blissfully insane happy ending.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 10.Sep.16 vff

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall