By Cynthia Biddlecomb
“The Magnificent Seven”, a classic western from 1960, has been remade for modern audiences.
As remakes go, this one is well done, respecting the genre and adding just enough humor to balance with the final, inevitable bloodbath. The plot, copied in the 1960 version from Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 movie, Seven Samurai, remains.
The setting, however, is a small town called Rose Creek in the late 1800s West, settled by homesteaders, now taken over by a robber baron in the business of mining gold.
Peter Saarsgaard plays the truly evil mine owner, Bartholomew Bogue. Fifteen minutes into the film, we already want him dead. Bogue and his men intimidate the town, take their land and shoot anyone who defies his rule. He’s bought off the sheriff, so justice is unlikely anytime soon. After several unarmed townspeople are killed for speaking out against Bogue, the opening titles begin to roll.
Now, Denzel Washington fills the screen. He plays Sam Chisholm, a warrant officer in several states, and he is after another wanted man. Along the way, two people from Rose Creek, the recent widow Emma Cullen played by Haley Bennett and Teddy Q played by Luke Grimes, approach him about helping their town. Chisholm agrees and starts collecting some other tough guys to help him overthrow Bogue.
His first recruit is Josh Faraday, played by Chris Pratt; he’s a quick gun, a wise guy gambler who does card tricks. Ethan Hawke plays Goodnight Robicheaux, once known as the best sharpshooter in the Confederacy. His buddy, Billy Rocks, played by Byung-hun Lee, comes along for the fight after displaying an impressive use of knives.
Vincent D’Onofrio plays Jack Horne, a bear of a frontiersman who could probably fight a grizzly and win. Chisholm goes after a Mexican gunslinger named Vasquez, played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, then offers him a part in the team in exchange for not killing him. On their way to Rose Creek, they cross Indian land and run into a Comanche named Red Harvest, played by Martin Sensmeier (a Tlingit actor from Alaska), who decides to help them fight bad men. Now we have our seven (although at some points in the story, Emma appears to fill that role).
A large part of the score for this film was written in pre-production by James Horner and delivered by his team just a month after he tragically died crashing his own plane in June of 2015. His music is perfectly crafted for this film. But, not to worry, the iconic Bernstein Magnificent Seven theme is used in the closing credits.
This is the Western film genre at its best and most contemporary. Bad guys fighting for townspeople to overthrow worse guys, snappy dialogue and humor, beautiful New Mexico scenery, what’s not to love? Those sensitive to watching 225+ people getting killed, in a film, may prefer staying at home. But, it is not gory and “it’s only a movie.”
This film is “rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.”