Conceived rather cheekily as an affirmative-action western, The Magnificent Seven is a fine albeit unnecessary remake of a classic, lighthearted 1960 oater about a Mexican town that hires seven scrappy white gunfighters to save them from murderous bandits. In this racially inverted version, the lily-white inhabitants of Rose Creek are being bullied — and sometimes brutally gunned down — by the thugs of a ruthless millionaire (Peter Sarsgaard, having a lot of fun being evil), who wants to run them off their land in order to mine it. The recently widowed Emma goes looking for a saviour and finds the eminently lethal Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a lawman-turned-bounty hunter. She tells him her sad story then adds: “I want righteousness … but I’ll settle for revenge.”
An initially reluctant Chisolm soon goes on the hunt for some gunfighters in need of redemption and finds a motley crew: a Mexican, an Asian (equally adept with gun and throwing knife), a mountainous mountain man, a sharpshooter with PTSD, a bow-and-arrow toting Native American with war paint on himself and his horse, and a rascally gambler (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy) with good hands for cards and guns alike. Once assembled, the men spend the middle part of the film teaching Rose Creek’s farmers how to be fighters, in anticipation of the impending battle royal.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) genuflects to standard western tropes, from grand landscapes and endless skies to a spirit of broodingly raucous masculinity. But the pacing often has a modern speediness, and the intense level of violence could show even Sam Peckinpah a thing or two about how to annihilate a couple of hundred extras. Mostly, though, he’s crafted a competent and resonant crowd-pleaser that does an adequate job of blending manly humour, moments of pathos and a moral lesson or two. The lavish body count may, however, be problematic for tenderhearted viewers — this is a western that essentially morphs into a war flick at the climax.
That said, the shoot-‘em-up set pieces are varied and well staged. And sometimes darkly funny — one bad guy gets drilled by a fusillade of bullets such that his body spins around before flopping into an open coffin placed expectantly outside the undertaker’s mainstreet storefront. As for “the seven” — while short of magnificent, they deliver lots of steely machismo when it matters most. Many critics weren’t impressed by this remake, possibly because they’ve sentimentalized the well-acted but flimsy original. Admittedly this is mostly an action flick tricked out with spurs and six-shooters, but the opening night crowd gave it a hearty round of applause, so it’s clear Fuqua knows his audience.
The Girl on the Train
The great Emily Blunt stars in an adaptation of the best-selling thriller about a woman whose daily train commute leads her into a dark mystery about a missing wife.
Ben Affleck stars as an autistic math genius who is an accountant for dangerous criminals. This violent actioner features J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
Sometimes referred to as “Tim Burton’s X-Men,” this adaptation of the popular fantasy series by author Ransom Riggs stars Eva Green, Allison Janney, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Tom Cruise reprises his role as the ex-military-cop-turned-vagabond who comes to the rescue of innocent strangers — mostly by thumping innumerable bad guys with his fists of fury.