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The Magnificent Seven review
Reboot of the iconic 1960 western.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeir, Peter Sarsgaard, Haley Bennett, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer

The Magnificent Seven poster

If you're intent upon dying on a hill defending a classic movie from the remake treatment, 1960's The Magnificent Seven isn't the worthiest of causes. Made at a time when Hollywood was struggling to prise audiences away from their shiny new TV sets, John Sturges' film was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 The Seven Samurai, and let's face it, the concept was hardly original when the Japanese filmmaker turned his talents to it. Besides, no other genre recycles plotlines as often as the western, so you could say The Magnificent Seven has been remade dozens of times already; this one is just more honest about its influence.

A lack of originality is no gauge of a film's quality. 1960's The Magnificent Seven is a great western. 2016's The Magnificent Seven isn't a great western, but it's a pretty good western, and as satisfying a blockbuster as you're likely to get from modern Hollywood.

The Magnificent Seven review

This time the action has been relocated from Mexico to a village north of the border, presumably to avoid think-pieces on the problematic idea of Americans saving Mexicans. I can't help think an opportunity to comment on the US's volatile contemporary relationship with its Southern neighbour has subsequently been lost, but you can't expect a modern Hollywood movie to engage in political allegory.

The village is one of those classic western hamlets, home to hard workin', God fearin' folks. Trouble is, it's situated on valuable land, which makes it the target of ruthless robber baron Bartholomew Bogue (a deliciously hammy Peter Sarsgaard), who burns down the town's church and has his hired guns murder some of the menfolk in the movie's opening scene.

The Magnificent Seven review

If only there were someone with the skills to stand up to Bogue! As luck would have it, who arrives in town but renowned bounty hunter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington). After some coaxing from young widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), and possibly motivated by a personal vendetta, Chisholm agrees to take on Bogue.

To aid him, Chisholm rounds up six men - Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), an explosives expert with a passion for women and whisky; crack shot Southern gent Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his Korean sidekick (and possibly lover?) Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), deadly with a knife; hulkish trapper Jack Horne (the great Vincent D'Onofrio, offering his best Walter Brennan impersonation); Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a wanted Mexican bandit, and the least explored of the characters; and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche who's a mean shot with an arrow.

The Magnificent Seven review

Thanks to a witty script from Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, the interplay between the seven disparate rogues prevents Antoine Fuqua's remake from being another soulless cash-in on a recognisable property. At 130 minutes, and unlike most modern wannabe blockbusters, The Magnificent Seven justifies its scope, allowing time for its scenario to breathe and let us get to know its characters, all of whom are ideally cast. With its ethnically diverse line-up, every kid in America's playground gets their own hero here, but the film doesn't pretend 1879 was a time of racial harmony, and there's much chiding and bickering between the men - Pratt's Farraday is a particularly ignorant bigot, but he's damn charismatic, as awful people so often are in reality.

Far from ruining your Dad's childhood, this Magnificent Seven is a respectful tribute to the western genre, shot on an old fashioned outdoor set constructed by carpenters rather than computers. In narrative terms, there's nothing here that will be new to anyone who has seen more than a handful of westerns, but that was never the point of this beautiful genre. Westerns are about their characters, not their plots, and you could do a lot worse than spending 130 minutes in the company of these seven likeable rogues.

The Magnificent Seven is on Prime Video UK now.