Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

Review by George M. Thomas

Denzel Washington, center, leads a cast of unlikely allies to avenge '
the wrong imposed on a small town in the west.
Sometimes when a movie is remade, it’s best to not have seen the original.

Confession time:  I’ve never seen the first THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN which starred a legendary cast of actors led by Yul Brynner.

I’m glad I didn’t.  It probably would have tainted my view of the remake which stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier.   A classic is a classic, right? 

Will this version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN be remembered as highly? I doubt it.  But the fact remains there’s little doubt that it accomplishes its goal – though languid in spots, it’s pretty damned entertaining overall.

Much of that comes courtesy of a cast that plays well off one another.  Directing from a script written by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto that they based on the script by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni for THE SEVEN SAMURAI, a classic in its own right, Antoine Fuqua concerns himself more with entertainment value rather than making a grand statement, yet manages to do both, with the statement coming in a more subtle manner.

Washington portrays Chisholm a duly sworn law enforcement official in post-Civil War America.  Yeah, you can imagine how often the guy gets the Cleavon-Little-in-BLAZING SADDLES side eye roll without the N-word getting dropped. 

Dressed in black, filled with confidence and a reserved, but prominent attitude, Chisholm walks into a small town in the West, kicks a little ass and is prepared to leave.  But Emma (Hayley Bennett), a young widow whose husband was killed in another town, stops him and talks him into taking the town’s bounty.

The mission:  take out the robber baron (Peter Sarsgaard) who killed several of the town’s citizens, including Emma’s spouse (Matt Bomer).   Initially, Chisolm shows reluctance, but when he learns he and the man wreaking havoc on the town share a past, he rounds up six unlikely compatriots to return  the town to its rightful owners.

Much of the enjoyment comes from watching that motley group interact with the townsfolk and try to prepare them for their reality.  But Fuqua deftly adds subtle – very subtle – commentary about social injustice.

Add to that the beautiful picture he paints of the Old West with his lens and eye, and he produces a worthy effort. Additionally, the director also possesses shorthand with Washington from THE EQUALIZER and TRAINING DAY that serves them both well. 

The rest of the cast absorbs that camaraderie to the point that it’s difficult to find flaws among that core group.  It’s easier to sit back and enjoy.

Where THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN slips is in its pacing which makes the film feel like a slog for a while. Coupled with a couple of predictable, thoroughly derivative moments, and you get that clich├ęd feel.  However that doesn’t diminish the overall success that the movie is. Magnificent?  No.  But still a worthwhile trip to the theater.

Director:  Antoine Fuqua
Cast:  Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier
Studio:  Columbia Studios
Rated:  PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material
Running time:  132 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, ClevelandCinemas, and

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