Film: “The Magnificent Seven”; Director: Antoine Fuqua; Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer; Rating: ***
Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven”, has nothing to boast of. It is a remake of a remake that owes its roots to Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic, “Seven Samurai”.
The tried and tested premise where a defenceless village comes under repeated attack by an outlaw gang until a small band of mercenary bravehearts team together to ward off the bad guys, is universally appealing. And this has been replicated in many variations in various language films, which includes Raj Kumar Santoshi’s China Gate in Hindi.
This version is set in 1879 in Rose Creek in the US, shortly after the Civil War. The residents of Rose Creek, a village of farmers find themselves locking horns with Bartholomew Bogue, a capitalist and mining baron, who is also a land grabber. He threatens to kill those who do not surrender their land for a paltry sum of twenty dollars.
The villagers are helpless in front of Bogue’s brutality. And, after her husband was brutally killed by Bogue’s men, Emma Cullen seeks help from a bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, who in turn bands together a gambler Josh Faraday, a sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux, his accomplice, an orient assassin Billy Rocks, a tracker Jack Horne, a Mexican outlaw Vasquez and a native warrior Red Harvest.
The script written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk is alternately gripping and weak. It offers nothing new in terms of the plot. Nevertheless, it is still reasonably engaging for the first half of the 132 minutes of its run time. The second half gets into the predictable slot of the engaging battle with Bogue’s henchmen.
Dressed in black Denzel Washington cuts a dashing figure as Sam Chisolm. He is the helmer of the operation. Chris Pratt as the reckless charmer Josh Faraday, who uses card tricks to distract his opponents, is charmingly distractive. He exudes an equal amount of mystery and appeal in his persona.
With an interesting facial expression, Ethan Hawke, as the haunted ex-Confederate soldier Goodnight Robicheaux delivers his part sincerely. He is aptly supported by Byung-hun Lee, as his road-show partner, Billy Rocks, who is proficient with knives.
Vincent D’Onofrio as the tracker Jack Horne with a religious streak is menacing. He stands out with his furry tail cap and intimidating demeanour. With a chiselled body and painted visage, Martin Sensmeier makes his presence felt as the archer Red Harvest. His offering a piece of deer meat to Chisolm and taking a bite himself seemed synthetic and made-up. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as the “Texican” with a mean streak, hardly has much to offer.
Peter Sarsgaard as the gold greedy industrialist, is ineffective as the antagonist. With a nervous demeanour, he seems more of a weakling than confident, in the field surrounded by his henchmen. He is never intimidating.
Haley Bennett the only lady in this male dominated narrative, has her moments of onscreen glory as Emma Cullen. She holds her stead and guns with gusto.
Visually the film has all the trappings of a Western. The action sequences are skilfully choreographed and every frame is aesthetically captured by Cinematographer Mauro Fiore’s lens.