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With: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer
Written by: Richard Wenk, Nic Pizzolatto
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material
Running Time: 132
Date: 09/23/2016
IMDB

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Seven' Help Us

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The new The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the 1960 Western of the same name, which was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece Seven Samurai (1954).

Once again, it tells the story of a band of outsiders, joining forces to help a town full of poor farmers defend themselves against bullying marauders.

Like a worn saddle, it's a sturdy old tale, used not only in this trio of movies, but also in a few dozen other Westerns, ranging from Wyatt Earp stories to Clint Eastwood starrers.

Director Antoine Fuqua brings to it a welcome sense of diversity, featuring a multi-cultural bunch with a minority of white faces.

The screenplay by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto includes a few lines, a few glances, that indicate a distrust or fear of other races — indicative of the period — but otherwise puts them all on equal footing.

Denzel Washington takes the lead, as he did in Fuqua's Training Day and The Equalizer, playing Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter who comes to the town of Rose Creek to catch a wanted man.

There, the comely, newly widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) begs Chisolm to help stop the evil robber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, in a strangely irritated performance).

Chisolm recruits a drunken Irishman (Chris Pratt, cheerfully wisecracking and doing card tricks), a Southern gentleman (Ethan Hawke, reuniting with his Training Day co-star), and his cohort, a Chinese knife specialist (Byung-hun Lee, actually from South Korea).

Then there's a Mexican bandit (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a grizzly bear-like tracker (Vincent D'Onofrio), and a Comanche warrior (Martin Sensmeier), who is very handy with a bow and arrow.

Fuqua's action sequences are noisy, and a bit drawn-out, and employs some whiplash editing, but he manages a well-crafted, exciting use of space. He hasn't reached the mastery of Sam Peckinpah or Sergio Leone, but as evidenced by the impressive showdown in The Equalizer, he is improving.

The score, begun by the late James Horner and completed by Simon Franglen (and including parts of Elmer Bernstein's legendary 1960 score), is likewise a tad too thunderingly omnipresent, but still serves the action well.

But was a remake necessary? Westerns may not be as popular as they were in the 1950s, and this one was always more crowd-pleaser than poetry, but it contains simple, strong messages, codes of honor that still ring true.

The general lack of Westerns today is a perfect excuse for telling this story again, as if around a campfire over a plate of bacon and beans, passing it on to a younger generation of urban cowboys.

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