The Magnificent Seven

 

starstarstarstar

 

 

The Miscellaneous Seven ride into town...

 

magnificent Seven
 

The Miscellaneous Seven, more like. The original septet of gunslingers – led from behind by Brad Dexter – were a very white, clean-cut lot. In terms of gunslingers, the 1960s kicked off with The Magnificent Seven (1960), directed by John Sturges, and culminated in a blizzard of blood and bullets courtesy of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969). What a difference nine years made. Well, it’s now been a further forty-seven and, were Sam Peckinpah still alive, he may be surprised that the new Magnificent Seven has but a 12A certificate. It’s one of the most violent films of the year. It may not be particularly gory, but the body count is vast and the sadism dispensed by Peter Sarsgaard’s amoral land-grabber is uniquely disturbing in its indiscrimination.

 

The new man behind the camera, Antoine Fuqua, is one of the best action directors in the business. His Training Day (2001) won Denzel Washington an Oscar and Ethan Hawke an Oscar nomination and the two actors are reunited here (a long way from South Central Los Angeles). There’s also Chris Pratt, who’s as handy with a playing card as Denzel is with a Peacemaker. There’s a virtually unrecognisable Vincent D’Onofrio as a sort of Grizzly Adams character, as well as a knife-throwing Chinaman (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and a Comanche (Martin Sensmeier). And, to leaven the testosterone, there’s Haley Bennett as a young woman who’s as good with a rifle as she is with a pep talk.

 

The septet are called on to aid the prospect of Rose Creek, a small town peopled by farmers who are being driven off their land by an unscrupulous industrialist (Sarsgaard). Sarsgaard does villainy extremely well, and his vacant gaze – at odds with his eloquence – is chilling to behold. When he shoots a law-abiding associate who doesn’t crumple up immediately, he fixes the dying man with a patronising stare the better to speed his exit. It’s a masterful display of evil.

 

Compared to the 1960 Western – which, in turn, was a stodgy remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) – Antoine Fuqua’s version is a rich, hard-hitting affair. As usual, Denzel holds centre stage with extraordinary grace and gravitas (belying his sixty-one years), while Hawke is enormous fun as an ex-soldier, whose chuckling demeanour hides his PTSD. Chris Pratt is good value, too, whose magic tricks would impress Derren Brown (there’s his cards and his gun). The production itself is handsomely mounted and well scored and though the climactic battle seems to defy logistics, it’s a gripping, pulse-accelerating finale.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Matt Bomer, Luke Grimes, Cam Gigandet, Sean Bridgers, Mark Ashworth.

 

Dir Antoine Fuqua, Pro Roger Birnbaum and Todd Black, Screenplay Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, Ph Mauro Fiore, Pro Des Derek R. Hill, Ed John Refoua, Music James Horner and Simon Franglen, Costumes Sharen Davis.

 

LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pin High Productions/Escape Artists-Sony Pictures.

132 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 23 September 2016. Cert. 12A.