The Magnificent Seven ride again in Antoine Fuqua's rootin' tootin' reboot that revives the classic Western for a new generation.
Denzel Washington reteams with director Antoine Fuqua in this action-packed remake of the classic 60's Western which in itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Washington plays Chisholm, a mysterious gunslinger decked in all black who rides into town and finds himself faced with a proposition from distraught villager Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett).
The two set out to recruit a posse of likeminded heroes, including Faraday (Chris Pratt), a cheeky cowboy with a penchant for card tricks.
Some could argue that Magnificent Seven is plagued with the same issues as 2016's Ben-Hur reboot; first of all, who asked for it? Second of all, who is this remake for? Both of these doubts are quickly cast aside however; Magnificent Seven does an admirable job of homaging the original whilst also injecting enough vigour and violence to excuse its own existence.
It's not an improvement, but it is an updated version that feels like a product of its era. It's the same tale done differently to suit contemporary tastes; thin on plot, jam-packed with action and explosions and eager to please. Fuqua melds his own directorial methods with some classic Western shots, stitching it all together with some impressively tight editing and brisk pacing.
The casting is great too; Washington commands the screen in every frame. He's a towering presence and makes for a compelling lead. Pratt also works whilst playing second fiddle; his wisecracking character is very similar to Star-Lord or Owen from Jurassic World but it's an evolving typecasting that continues to work in Pratt's favour.
The supporting cast are great too. Ethan Hawke plays a sharpshooter called Goodnight and it was nice to see that his was a character who was afforded some degree of depth and backstory. This isn't the case with everybody, but what did you expect? Byung-hun Lee is Billy Rocks, a badass assassin, Vincent D'Onofrio is Jack Horne, a squeaky hunter from the hinterland, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is Vasquez, a smooth-talking Mexican and Martin Sensmeier is Red Harvest, a Native American warrior seeking solace.
However, someone who particularly stood out to me was Bennett as the vengeful widow leading the charge to defend her homestead. Although her character fades into the background at certain points in the middle third, her arc rings truest and loudest with a number of 'hero moments' making the third act. Her performance was also one of the strongest, outshining most of the central male protagonists.
Moments like that aren't created in a vacuum; if they aren't incorporated into a film that works, singular moments don't ring true. Fuqua's Magnificent Seven is more than just these singular moments; sure, there are money shots where the gang ride across the horizon silhouetted against the sunset, but the whole film ties together to capture the right tone and vibe. The writing is simplistic but the characters are defined and bounce off each other. The action is exciting and the editing is punchy. It's total popcorn entertainment, but if this film had come out in June I don't think I'd be remembering the summer just gone as such a cinematic wasteland. It's easily one of my favourite blockbusters of 2016.
The Verdict: 8/10
It doesn't surpass the original (how could it?) but Fuqua's reworking of this classic Western hits a homer by nailing the right tone. Washington owns it; Pratt makes a fun sidekick with Bennett stealing the show. Now excuse me while I stare wistfully at the horizon and chew a piece of straw while listening to that score one more time...
The Magnificent Seven is in cinemas across Australia now