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Review: ‘Magnificent Seven’ misfires

  • SONY PICTURES

    The script of the remake of “The Magnificent Seven” doesn’t hold up to the excellent acting ensemble of Byung-hun Lee, left, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier.

  • SONY PICTURES

    Chris Pratt, above left, and Denzel Washington appear in a scene from “The Magnificent Seven.” Washington’s performance as the leader of a bunch of outlaws rises above the mediocre script. Ethan Hawke is a Civil War vet named Goodnight Robicheaux, one of the members who is recruited.

“The Magnificent Seven”

Rated PG-13 (2:12)

HH1/2

Opens today

Deciding to remake “The Magnificent Seven” with a fresh batch of movie stars is certainly no sin. John Sturges’ 1960 film, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Seven Samurai,” is a fun confection of star power and charismatic bravado, sure, but held in such high esteem probably more because of Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score than anything else. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a ragtag group of outlaws banding together to defeat a powerful bully?

But director Antoine Fuqua doesn’t exactly elevate that now well-trod premise in this dutiful and solid rehashing of the seven gunmen who attempt to save a terrorized town, even if he does up the shoot-’em-up action (and body count). Bernstein’s score is given a few nods throughout the film, but saved in full for the final credits. Thus, it’s left to the actors to carry us through the over two-hour running time.

You could do worse than putting it all in the capable hands of Denzel Washington, with some help from Chris Pratt. Washington, as the steely-eyed bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, is the de facto leader, the Yul Brynner of the group. His out-of-use heart starts beating again when the recently widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) begs him to return to her small farming town of Rose Creek to save them from the terror of greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, played with delicious, over-the-top menace by Peter Sarsgaard.

Bogue is running a mining operation nearby and wants their land, too. He’ll either pay the residents of Rose Creek an unfairly low price for it or force them to leave (already a less compelling idea than taking the food they’ve grown, but this “farming town” does very little farming anyway). Fuqua takes no time easing into the story, starting out with an all-out massacre in the town.

For about an hour, things are fairly fun as Chisolm recruits the other six. Pratt’s Josh Faraday is the first up — a bemused gambler with enemies to spare and a fondness for whiskey who signs up for the mission to try to win back his horse. They find legendary Civil War veteran Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his blade-wielding buddy Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) — who gets to put his own spin on the memorable gun versus knife duel.

There’s the bearlike, shellshocked tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), the Mexican gunslinger Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and an exiled Native American, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). It’s a delightfully diverse little group, but unfortunately the script, credited to “True Detective” creator Nic Pizzolatto and “The Equalizer” scribe Richard Wenk, doesn’t spend much time getting to know these men. What is there isn’t nearly clever, funny or insightful enough to make up for that. It felt like no one ever quite agreed on what the tone should be. Fun? Nihilistic? Folksy? Irreverent? Sincere? It’s all over the place and it’s not good. The actors do their best, but when even Pratt struggles to sell a joke, you know you’re in trouble.

All dialogue, however, gets drowned out eventually as the movie gives way to the extremely long and frustratingly illogical final showdown with a Marvel-size body count that nonetheless provides some exhilarating moments with Washington, Pratt and a few others. The pieces are there but never quite come together. By the time Bernstein’s score plays and the credits start rolling, it’s a little too late to do anything besides make you even more nostalgic for what came before.

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    • Why do movies have to be pc and have diversity? It looks odd when there are black, whites, asian, mexican, and native indian in the mix. In that period, I doubt that any group was like that.

    • In the original 1960 “Magnificent Seven,” filmed in Mexico, about 100 people appear in the film, and all but five of the movie’s characters, including all the evil bandits, all the poor villagers, and two of the “Seven” heroes are Mexicans. It’s interesting that only a single Mexican character makes it into the 2016 remake of this classic movie. Why does the remake feature an all white cast except for a few token minorities in minor roles? Is this the effect of Donald Trump demonizing Mexicans in American culture? Is it no longer politically correct to make a major Hollywood western about Mexicans?

  • From what I can gather from the trailer. It is simply a remake that does not have the substance to make me want to spend the time or $ to view. Seems like a too much time was spent on creating action versus the interaction of cast and plot (?) Regardless, I do not mind watching the original again and again…it just has the right stuff. Then there’s the Seven Samurai…a real classic.

  • I saw the movie last night and had a GREAT time! I disagree with many of the reviewer’s statements (I would not have called the villain’s portrayal over-the-top, but rather restrained-yet-menacing, for instance.) It was fun, sad, exhilarating, and satisfying, to ME. As for the reviewer’s description of a “frustratingly illogical” final showdown, all I can say is, it’s a MOVIE, not a documentary. Was I entertained? YES. I LOVE Denzel and as usual, I thought he was great. Do I think Chris Pratt was BORN to play this role? YES! I WILL agree that seeing it made me want to marathon both the “Seven Samurai” and the Yul Brynner version of “Magnificent Seven.”

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