French director Antoine Fuqua teams up with his Training Day and The Equalizer star Denzel Washington again to bring us a remake of John Sturges’ classic 1960 western epic, which itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1953 Japanese film, Seven Samurai.
The film is about the residents of a small village in 1879 California, Rose Creek, where a unscrupulous and wealthy miner Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is terrorising people into selling their lands to him at throwaway prices failing which he’ll kill them, like he does the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett). Emma though, is not ready to give up and on a trip to nearby town, runs into bounty hunter/warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), and recruits him to fight against Bogue and his men. Chisolm recruits six more men to make the titular team of ragtags and misfits.
Remakes are quirky things in that you never quite know whether the product would justify its creation. Mr. Sturges’ original is seen as a landmark and had many actors who were, or would go on to become, stars of the genre. This one has been cast extremely well too, save for one (more on that later). Mr. Washington is supported ably by the likes of Chris Pratt (marvellous here), Ethan Hawke and Ms. Bennett, among others. There was a good deal of humour in the film too, chiefly due to Mr. Pratt, the joker of the group. The action too, whenever it takes centrestage, was riveting. Fast guns, fast horses, people dropping dead and all. If wisecracking and shootouts are your benchmarks for judging a film, TMS would get full marks. If, on the other hand, you like your movies to touch you emotionally as well, it’d fall some way short.
The drama of the film is its weak point. All the 7 guys have their reasons for joining in and those are covered in passing too, but in no frame would you be affected in a way Clint Eastwood made you feel in 1992’s Oscar-winning Unforgiven. Now I understand that this one is its own beast but the thing remains that Mr. Fuqua’s action chops have been the dominating force in his post-Training Day movies.The entire first half of the film is spent focussing on the recruitment drive. Clever editing and a bit more on the protagonists’ cupboard demons would have helped matters. Instead, the film is largely formulaic. To compound problems, we have a villain who tries his best to be menacing but comes off caricatured. I think Vincent D’Onofrio would have been better in that role instead of the Indian-hunter. Just see Marvel-Netfilx’s Daredevil for proof.
Overall, The Magnificent Seven is a cool, formula-based, popcorn-action flick that has all of the genre’s trademark style but too less of the substance. Don’t expect it to join the pantheon of great westerns or garner Academy nods.
Fun fact – Chisam’s introduction sequence is eerily similar to that of Dr. King Schultz in Django Unchained.
The Magnificent Seven is 133 minutes long and rated U/A. It is now playing in cinemas.
Rating : 3/5.
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