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MOVIE REVIEW: Magnificent 7

MAGNIFICENT SEVEN

DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua

CAST: Denzil Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennet, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martins Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard

CLASSIFICATION: 16 LV

RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes

RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)

THERESA SMITH

SEVEN gunmen come together to save a beleaguered town from the clutches of a greedy bad man and his savage gang. Sound familiar?

It should. This Antoine Fuqua film is a reboot of a 1960 film of the same name, which itself was an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. And there was also that late ‘90s TV series and all sorts of adaptations and references in everything from comedies to sci-fi Westerns in outer space. You name it, this particular storyline has found fertile ground in many a genre.

This time around, director Fuqua sticks to the Old West, setting the film in the 1870s, just after the American Civil War. Recently widowed Emma Cullen (Bennet), enlists bounty hunter, Sam Chisolm (Washington), to defend her town of Rose Creek and he in turn rounds up all the desperados he was supposed to arrest.

Several gunfights give rise to copious amounts of bullets being shot and many bodies dropping, but a surprisingly low amount of blood spilt. It gets violent, but stays relatively gore-free.

While you know where the storyline is going, what keeps you interested are the well-choreographed action set pieces and the jokes. There is a very modern sense of inclusivity in not only the casting, but in characterisation as well, but this is still a very prim and proper remake.

Bad guy, industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard), is a firm believer in might makes right, a ruthless man who wants more. Washington has commanding presence as the man in black, who keeps a firm hand on his desperados, but manages to inspire the townspeople, too.

Chris Pratt gets all the good one-liners as gambler Josh Faraday who is just dying to blow up something, while Ethan Hawke tosses around the philosophical poetry as PTSD-suffering Civil War veteran and expert sharpshooter, Goodnight Robicheux. Robicheux’s best friend, the knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks (Lee), Comanche warrior, Red Harvest (Sensmeier), and Mexican outlaw, Vasquez (Garcia-Rulfo), are the butt of some culturally suspect jokes, unlike Chisolm who, as the leader of the group, seems out of bounds in that sense.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s tracker, Jack Horne, is rightly called “a bear” by his new friends and his squeaky-voiced tracker is a man unused to human company, but one who readily accepts their friendship.The men bond over the knowledge that death awaits them as a big battle looms, but once the characters have been established, they don’t change much.

The score makes reference to Elmer Bernstein’s 1960s score which has been referenced in so many movies, adverts and even in theme parks that it is now shorthand for Old West, plus there’s a bit of the percussive sound from Seven Samurai’s score. Simon Frangler re-scored the work James Horner had started on the score before his untimely death last year and Horner’s influence is most obvious in little riffs from Avatar, but the music does help to underline the changes in the characters who go from cowboys with swagger to heroes intent on helping.Don’t go expecting the nobility in seeking to make one last statement which raises the source material to classic status.

This is a solidly made pop Western with funny jokes in which cowboys have some good one-liners and their six-shooters miraculously shoot more than six bullets before needing reloading.Good guys are clearly delineated from bad guys and life is simple.

If you liked The Quick and the Dead, you will like this.

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