The Magnificent Seven
Denzel Washington leads a new gang of gunslingers in Antoine Fuqua's flawed but entertaining remake
John Sturges, director of 1960's The Magnificent Seven, also made – deep breath – Bad Day at Black Rock, Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Great Escape and Ice Station Zebra among other classics. Antoine Fuqua, who calls the shots on this slickly serviceable remake, was responsible for Training Day, and not much else of consequence. Though the stunt work may have improved, the 56 years that separate the films, it's fair to say, have not brought subtlety.
Fuqua favourite Denzel Washington stars as Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter tasked with ridding Rosewater Creek of evil prospector Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his goons in the Old West of 1879. To do so, Chisolm teams up with wise-cracking card shark Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), washed-up marksman Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and four more racially diverse fighters in the form of bladesman Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), bandit Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), native hunter Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and bear-like yokel Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio). But how will they match the might of Bogue's army, and arsenal?
As usual, Washington is cool as a cuke, Pratt could play this role in his sleep, and Hawke is moving from hipster to hipflask swigger with grace. Fuqua, meanwhile, stages the film's tense stand-offs with style, the montages of training townsfolk are fun, and there's several lovely tracking shots of horses thundering across the plains. But there's a mixed message here, too. Where Sturges's heroes were reluctant interventionists, Fuqua's crew are spoiling for a shoot-out. Rather than standing up for the oppressed, Chisolm is expressly out for vengeance, Faraday wants his horse back, and the rest are either on the make or on the run. The result is expertly played but a little empty: one of Faraday's diverting sleight-of-hand card tricks rather than a full game.
General release from Fri 23 Sep.