The Magnificent Seven

When a bloodthirsty industrialist threatens a small mining town, a laconic bounty hunter forges an opposition of dangerous and uniquely skilled men.

Year: 2016
Certificate: 12
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Antoine Fuqua, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Pratt, Byung-hun Lee, Jonathan Joss, Haley Bennett, Billy Slaughter, Matt Bomer, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier

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Antoine Fuqua directs a starry ensemble cast in this big-budget remake of the classic 1960 Western of the same name. And, with that Steve McQueen-starring film itself a remake of the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece “Seven Samurai”, I’d say this story is fair game to retell.

Cold-hearted tyrant, Bartholomew Bogue, besieges the small town of Rose Creek. Escaping his rule after her husband is killed in cold blood, Emma (Haley Bennett) and her friend Teddy (Luke Grimes) go in search of retribution and, when Denzel Washington’s warrant officer Sam Chisolm rides into a neighbouring town, Emma deems him the perfect leader for a ragtag team of vengeance-dealers.

The most notable of Chisolm’s posse is card-tricking Joshua Farraday, played by none other than fresh megastar Chris Pratt. After a winning gun-toting performance in “Guardians of the Galaxy”, you’d think he’d be the perfect fit for an Earth-bound Western. But it turns out Pratt makes a far better cowboy when armed with laser blasters (or when herding Velociraptors, for that matter) than he does with a stick of dynamite, and his Farraday is distinctly lacking in cowboy cool. I’d go as far as saying this is probably the laziest performance of Pratt’s blockbuster career.

And, while we’re treated to some fine actors (see also Ethan Hawke), none of them are provided with anything more than the briefest of character sketches. Instead, Fuqua’s film trades on trick shots, both with the six shooters and the camera. He sacrifices clarity and scale in the action sequences for snazzy camera angles, thus neutralising any natural cinematic tension. He also jacks up the contrast so the dirty orange earth burns beneath a too-blue sky. It’s striking, but not particularly pleasant to look at and makes the whole film feels unnaturally glossy.

This is matched by the bloodless violence. Shots fly out and explosions rip through canvas with nary a splatter. That’s not to say that American Westerns haven’t always been in the habit of matinee violence, but, when the film goes out of its way to go so big on the action, it feels insincere not to match that with some kind of bodily stakes.

In a way, the film takes as much inspiration from post-Avengers superhero team-ups as it does from the classics of its genre, and the sanitised violence is one such comparison point. However, what Fuqua seemingly hasn’t learned is that the thing that sets apart the action in the team films from the solo outings is the thrill of watching rootin’-tootin’ camaraderie in the big set pieces.

Instead, our heroes are dotted around the battleground lone wolfing it when they could have been engaging in inventive teamwork. That being said, by not being tied up in continuity and cinematic universes, “The Magnificent Seven” does have the advantage of being able to kill off its heroes and that alone adds a refreshing sense of stakes.

This new version of “The Magnificent Seven” never makes the most of the racial significance of its ethnically diverse posse. Instead, the revisionism is mostly limited to budgetary bombast. Your parents’ Western this ain’t.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!


About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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