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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – Horsing Around

magnificentsevenDirected by Antoine Fuqa
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke

A remake of the much beloved 1960 western classic (itself a remake of a Kurosawa samurai epic) The Magnificent Seven has some big cowboy boots to fill. With an all star cast and an acclaimed director, it might just about be quick enough on the draw to pull it off.

When mining baron Bartholomew Bouge (Peter Skarsgaard) threatens to run the inhabitants of Rose Creek off their land murdering all those that stand against him, the widow Cullen (Haley Bennett) seeks vengeance. With the aid of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), she seeks a group of cowboys brave enough to save her town. Seven to stand against an army.

This is an ode to the classic westerns of yore. Not just the film that inspired it, but to the genre as a whole. The Magnificent Seven doesn’t feel the need to re-invent the wagon wheel. It does little to advance the western genre, doesn’t radically reinterpret it (which is a bit strange to say given its ethnically diverse cast and robber baron villain), just runs with it and provides solidly enjoyable entertainment. There are plenty of visual nods to those westerns of the 50s and 60s, and almost every cowboy trope you can think of, but all packaged in such a way as to feel fresh and vibrant.

So we as an audience re-experience those wide western vistas, those irredeemable bad guys, that rousting score and a bunch of plucky cowboys with righteousness on there side (and a six shooter slapped to their thigh). It is all sold with such charm and pizzazz. Fuqua captures the spirit of the original, slightly tweaked to more modern sensibility. In part this is just letting the fine cast he has, shine through, allowing each their individual character moments. Still this is not as simple a thing to do as first seems, and we’ve already seen one “guys on a mission film” botch this (I’m looking at you Suicide Squad).

Despite all the star studded cast putting in solid performances, there are some stand outs. Denzel Washington is the main focus, filling the role Yul Brenner had in the 1960 film. He has the perfect balance of confidence, threat and cold calculation to sell the role of Chisolm, and plays a cowboy as if born to it. By contrast Pratt’s hard-drinking gambler Farraday, is all swagger, and steals the show with a wonderfully outrageous performance. His obvious enjoyment is contagious, demonstrating the actor’s abundance of natural charisma.

A rollicking flashback to cinema past, and the return of the big screen western. Yippee Ki Yay!

DAVID O’CONNELL

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