Published: Wed, September 28, 2016
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt take wild ride in 'Magnificent Seven'

The rest of his team, gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), and mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), among others, may be lured by the promise of money, even if it seems like a battle they are bound to lose. His performance is both campy and honest, an over-the-top embodiment of villainy that gives the staid Magnificent Seven a desperately needed shot in the arm; the few times he appears onscreen, it's like David Lynch or the Coens beamed in to help quirk up Fuqua's world. At least that was the case for me, and the movie definitely delivers the justice we crave. There are three: One when Washington makes his movie-star entrance, the second when the Seven first ride into town, and the third - well, pretty much the whole last act of the movie.

There are two good ol' western shootouts in the film. "I didn't say, 'Oh, yeah, Denzel is a black man.' I saw him in black on a black horse". The chemistry between the seven men, particularly Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee, is entertaining to watch all on its own. Haley Bennett, whose character reminded me of Mamta Kulkarni in China Gate (minus the romantic subplot), is also a confident performer.

No, "The Magnificent Seven" is not as good as the original film, but modern audiences will enjoy this solid, if not quite magnificent, remake of a beloved old Western. That pounding you hear is an nearly intolerable score by James Horner ("Titanic") and Simon Franglen ("Avatar"). The 1960 film lacked the depth and emotional turmoil the Japanese film had. Sam Chisolm is a lot like Robert McCall, his character in Fuqua's version of "The Equalizer".

The plot makes some surface tweaks to the original movie, making the imperiled town a group of homesteaders who are being driven off their land by a sociopathic robber baron (Peter Sarsgaard should probably worry at how easily he plays a sociopathic anything).

But more than just enlivening this film, Sarsgaard as Bogue joins a very particular category of performance: the bonkers-hysterical big bad. Blame that on the lack of scenes given to the actor. Denzel Washington has done a fabulous job. While there are plenty of examples of this phenomenon, some of them dating back decades, the best recent example is easy to find: Eddie Redmayne, whispering inexplicably and using every muscle in his face to turn Balem Abrasax, the villain of the Wachowskis' otherwise disastrous Jupiter Ascending, into a subject worthy of his talents. Fifteen years ago, Training Day was released, starring Washington and Hawke, which was directed by Fuqua. Moreover, they could have had some more fun with his character, on the lines of Django Unchained, since the film was set post Civil War-era, and the coloured men were still looked upon with contempt. Seven songs. It was actually seven songs.

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