The new reboot of the 1960 classic Western “The Magnificent Seven,” out September 23, is nowhere close to the original – and that’s not a knock.
The film – directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Southpaw”) and starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Peter Sarsgaard – is very much a reimagining, with the premise still intact: A group of gunfighters is hired to defeat a tyrant. But that’s about all that’s kept. Even the iconic Elmer Bernstein score from the original only gets a cameo in the end credits.
Fuqua’s take on this classic is blood-soaked and thrilling, but also filled with dark humor. And at times Washington and Hawke bring out some deeper dramatic moments.
In the original, the seven gunslingers are hired by poor Mexican farmers to help them ward off a group of bandits. This time around, it’s the town of Rose Krick that’s in trouble, as it’s being taken over by an industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who has overpowered the town by buying off the sheriff and killing any man who gets in his way.
After seeing her husband killed by Bogue, Emma (Haley Bennett) takes it upon herself to seek out men who can overthrow Bogue.
Washington, paying homage to Yul Brynner’s all-black wardrobe in the original, plays bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, who agrees to help Emma and begins enlisting the likes of an assassin (Byung-hun Lee), a sharpshooter (Hawke), a Comanche warrior (Martin Sensmeier), a tracker (Vincent D’Onofrio), and a Mexican outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).
Along for the ride is the often intoxicated gambler Josh Farraday, embodied with the usual playfully sarcastic tone of Pratt. He brings needed comic relief with some great one-liners, and gets some millage out of quick jokes that Steve McQueen says in the original.
- Haley Bennett/Sony
The body count in this movie is more on the level of “The Wild Bunch” than the original “Magnificent Seven,” but the motivations for the men taking the job are deeper-rooted and more personal, a testament to screenwriters Richard Wenk and “True Detective” creator Nic Pizzolatto.
The creatives behind the movie should also be applauded for the Emma character. In an era when Hollywood is finally expected to give female characters their due, Bennett shows Emma as a tough, independent woman who isn’t scared to grab a gun and get in the mix. A far cry from most women seen in the Western genre.
“The Magnificent Seven” certainly has its flaws, and head-scratching choices (like the high-pitched voice D’Onofrio decided to go with for his character). But if you go into the movie with the expectations of seeing an entertaining action Western, not the original (nor certainly what inspired both, “Seven Samurai”), you should be pleased.