The Magnificent Seven
Remake of a remake, Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven opens this year’s TIFF with a lot of noise but little revelation after the dust has settled. Competing (one can’t deny the inevitable comparison) with a beloved 1960 version by John Sturges – itself a revisitation of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 epic Seven Samurai – Fuqua’s film suffers when measured against its forebears. A mouth-watering cast featuring headline names such as Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt, will definitely attract audiences, but this Hollywood western ends up being pretty stock material.
The plot is straightforward with justifiable moral motives, making it easy to paint everyone as heroes – especially when helped by such a flamboyant soundtrack. Rose Creek, a town of helpless and unarmed farmers, is ruthlessly taken over by industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who has plans for mining exploitation. A young widow from the village employs seven gunmen, led by bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), to fight back and defend their land.
Sturges’s 1960 movie has been revised here in some key details, adding an undertone of political correctness to the codes of classic western: the squad of seven heroic outlaws now includes a Chinese, a Mexican and a Comanche, while the evil is incarnated by a ferocious white businessman who equates God with capitalism, instead of a Mexican bandit. In an America currently leaning alarmingly towards political racism, none of this is to underestimate, yet The Magnificent Seven is not to be taken as a metaphoric commentary of current social issues: steering clear of in-depth analysis of the themes it uses, it stays in the shallow end of political discourse.
Denzel Washington holds together the crew of misfits, unflinchingly wholesome and noble from start to end. A much-awaited Chris Pratt stars as Josh Faraday: gambler, drinker, Irish and full of irony – a character as clichéd and enjoyable as he sounds. Ethan Hawkes’s performance is also deserving, yet his role (Goodnight Robineaux) is a pretty predictable part. Vincent D’Onofrio plays an amusingly brutal but religious tracker Josh Horne, and to complete the circle (and make it blatantly inclusive and politically acceptable) South Korean actor Byung-Hun in the Billy Rocks role, Mexican Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez, and Martin Sensmeier as Comanche warrior Red Harvest.
TIFF kicks off with a commercial action makeover of a western classic: a hard game to win. The Magnificent Seven doesn’t disappoint anyone who enjoys a good shootout, nor whoever is looking for a facade of multiculturalism in cowboy gangs. However, while the box office will probably reward this production, history most likely won’t.
The Magnificent Seven is released nationwide on 23rd September 2016.
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Watch the trailer for The Magnificent Seven here: