Trust your lucky number, especially if it is seven

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier are “The Magnificient Seven”

The Magnificent Seven

***/****

By Jason Wiese

Original content in Hollywood is hard to come by these days. That sentence alone is not even original. The world is already very much aware that the amount of remakes, reboots and cinematic adaptations severely outweighs the amount ideas that never saw the light of day until they were screenplays and this critic is getting a little timid about it. Especially when he hears that Hollywood is remaking film that was already a remake to begin with.

The original 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven was written as an American, western-style update of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which was released six years earlier. Both are highly influential classics of their time which most of its fans would agree should not be touched with a ten-foot pole. Having seen 1960’s The Magnificent Seven and comparing it to director Antoine Fuqua’s update, I realize now that perhaps the original did have much room for an improvement and this remake is just that.

The plot is, thankfully, not a mirror image of the original. Instead of a Mexican village oppressed by an evil bandit, a small town of Americans is terrorized by ruthless industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, who is not a convincing villain at first, until it is revealed why) who takes control of the town with a contract written in blood. Seeking justice, an average, yet brave, townswoman named Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) enlists the help of seven men with mutually unique skills that are equally deadly who also make up one of the best casting ensembles this year.

Denzel Washington, channeling his inner Yul Brynner dressed all in black, leads the group as goodhearted bounty hunter Sam Chisolm. Chris Pratt, channeling his inner Steve McQueen, plays Josh Faraday, a drifter whose alcoholism makes his expert gun shooting all the more astonishing. Ethan Hawke, reuniting with Washington and Fuqua for the first time since 2001’s Training Day, is Goodnight Robicheaux, whose deadly past earned him the nicknamed “The Angel of Death.” His partner, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), is a Korean-American who can kill with a knife faster than a gun can draw on him. Chisolm offers to pardon wanted criminal Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) in return that he join him in battle. Jack Horne, a bear of a man played with heart and humor by Vincent D’Onofrio, is reluctant to join the group until realizing that he can do God’s work by serving this town alongside Chisolm’s men. The rest do not find, but are found by, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), an exiled Comanche Indian whose bow and arrow makes gunslinging look like child’s play.

The Magnificent Seven is a pleasant surprise, not only for its smartly executed premise and exciting action sequences, but for how it attempts to, not necessarily be a bigger, “badder” update to a classic, but to be another good old fashioned western in the traditional sense. But what makes the film the rare type of remake that is more necessary than unnecessary is that it gives Hollywood the chance to make a traditional western with an ethnically diverse cast, a rare effect for a film of its type. It is just about the most fun you will have at the movies this fall and truly lives up to its title.

Published to Newstime and The Lincoln County Journal Friday, Sept. 23, 2016

Also available on Tumblr