A look at The Magnificent Seven
NOW I know there’ll be all sorts of criticisms of Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven, but as a sucker for a Western movie I’m not joining the ranks.
The old premise of seven drifters coming together to protect a village from predators is still the central theme.
Just as it was in Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and a few years later in John Sturges’ iconic The Magnificent Seven from 1960, adapted from the Kurosawa epic.
This time we have an African American gunslinger, a bounty hunter played by Denzel Washington, as the lead character.
Yes, there were black cowboys in the 1870s – this film is set in 1879, 14 years after the end of the Civil War – and perhaps Fuqua is giving a belated salute to that fact.
Anyway, Washington’s Sam Chisholm collects a motley crew of gunfighters once he agrees to pleas from a townswoman played by Haley Bennett.
She needs them to protect her little hamlet Rose Creek (in Colorado, maybe) from a ruthless mining tycoon.
The magnificently named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is forcing the men off their farmlands and town jobs, enslaving them and forcing them to work in his nearby mine.
Enter Chisholm and his six killers. Now Washington is not nearly as menacing as Yul Brynner was in the lead role 56 years back, but this current director has assembled a much more ethnically diverse group.
There’s a Korean knife fighter named, if you don’t mind, Billy Rocks. He’s played by Byung-Hun Lee.
There’s also a Mexican, a real one this time, not the unconvincing south-of-the-border lad played by Horst Buchholz in the Sturges re-make, and a sort of bushman-cum-Indian hunter.
But to cap it all off Chisholm’s group of six is joined by a Native American, a Comanche warrior, who bonds with Chisholm as they share a snack: the uncooked heart of a deer the outcast Comanche cuts out, and hands him.
Maybe they’re not as murderous a bunch as Brynner’s posse which included James Coburn, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, but they’ll do.
Away they go to the town and nearby mine, dispatch Bogue’s resident gang of ne’er-do-wells, allowing only the sheriff who is on the crook’s books to survive and flee back to Sacramento to alert the mining magnate.
The Seven then prepare the townsfolk for the imminent day of vengeance. My two favourite characters – card shark Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) and the Korean’s best mate Goodnight (Ethan Hawke) – teach the farmers and enforced miners a spot of target shooting, the bushman leads in the preparation of underground bunkers from which the men can partake in sniping as Bogue’s horsemen pass overhead while other members of the Seven appropriate dynamite from the mine.
The self-defence strategies are about to be tested. Like a wave of cavalry from the not-so-long-back Civil War Bartholomew Bogue’s enormous ‘army’ of deputies and assorted crooks descend on the town from across the plains.
The first bunch engage and, of course, there’s a lot of Colt .45 action as Chisholm and some of his men emerge from the doors of the saloon, the stables and the whorehouse guns a-blazing.
Not to mention the rifle sniping from the brush-covered trenches.
The Comanche does his best work from a rooftop vantage point. He must have been busy in the days leading up to the attack preparing a stock of arrows because his bow-and-arrow shooting is regular and spot-on.
Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable 133 minutes. Okay, the middle portion might have dragged a tad, but the climactic shoot-out was fantastic.
Including quite a lot of explosions from the afore-mentioned dynamite.
And we even got a few bars of that unforgettable 1960 Elmer Bernstein score as we watched the end credits.