This one goes to 7
A passable update on classic Western
Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven is, as you’ve probably heard, a remake of a much admired Western from 1960, which was itself a “remake” of Akira Kurosawa’s truly magnificent Seven Samurai (1954). Neither of the Westerns can match Kurosawa’s classic, and Fuqua’s version has little hope of even matching the 1960 version, with its Elmer Bernstein score and a cast that includes Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Brad Dexter, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Horst Buchholz and James Coburn.
What the new version does have going for it is mostly a matter of Denzel Washington (in the Brynner role) and a diverse and appealing set of supporting roles, including a Mexican (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Native American (Martin Sensmeier), a Korean (Byung-hun Lee) and a woman (Haley Bennett). Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and Peter Sarsgaard make solid contributions as well, but the characterizations are rarely as interesting as the names that some of them have been given—Goodnight Robicheaux, Billy Rocks, Red Harvest, Bartholomew Bogue, etc.
Denzel is Denzel, and that’s always a good thing, although the film never really gives him a chance to be more than good. Pratt has some fun amid the boy’s club/frat-house posturing of some of the central seven, and burly, hirsute Jack Horne (D’Onofrio) might be the most distinctive and intriguing character in the bunch. Hawke and Sarsgaard both look unwell, something their respective roles require, except that Hawke eventually seems terminally bored with his entire role, while Sarsgaard’s campy villain seems sickened by the whole enterprise, right from the start.