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The Magnificent Seven Reviews

Reviewed By: Ciampoli Tom

Remaking a classic John Sturges Western seems like a risky, possibly dubious proposition. But this version of The Magnificent Seven was able to round up some big guns for its shoot-'em-up reboot of the cowboy flick based on a Kurosawa epic. Working from a screenplay from True Detective scribe Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk (16 Blocks), the film reunites director Antoine Fuqua with his stars from Training Day, Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. America's new favorite movie star/barbeque buddy Chris Pratt has been thrown in for additional comic relief, and the setting has been moved from Mexico to a 19th century California frontier town named Rose Creek, which is invaded by a violent mining baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The eponymous crew of seven talented, deadly misfits are brought together by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a woman looking for both revenge and respite from the dangerous man whose thugs have taken over her town.After feared, impossibly cool warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Washington, of course) accepts this mission, he rounds up Faraday (Pratt), who is looking to buy his horse back from Chisolm; a Mexican fugitive named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); and the impeccably named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a rifle-wielding Civil War legend also known as the "Angel of Death." Rounding out the squad are Robicheaux's lethal pal Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee); righteous hand-to-hand fighter Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio); and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche tribe member who happens upon the crew as they head for battle.All of the trappings are present for a worthwhile reimagining of a classic Western that's as iconic as it is laconic. The cinematography by Mauro Flore is truly gorgeous, with wide shots that evoke Ansel Adams photos come to life. The most magnificent component of the film may be the pulsing, ominous score from the late James Horner, which serves as the perfect soundtrack for nerve-fueled adrenaline. And it's always fun to see Chisolm, Farady, and Robicheaux trade cheeky wisecracks and testosterone-laced barbs (a highlight is when Faraday calls Goodnight a "legend" and then follows it up with, "Is that all you are?"). D'Onofrio, in his wheelhouse as an unhinged, unpredictable force of nature, serves as the unexpected soul of the crew, and the charismatic Garcia-Rulfo delivers a breakout performance.The problem is that there doesn't seem to be enough gravitas to match all of the posturing, and this sentiment is partially due to the inevitable "it's not like the good old days" wistful memories that Fuqua's remix will conjure up. It's also thanks to a propensity for substituting melodrama for true anger/rage/fear. There's tons of machismo, but not enough authenticity.The Magnificent Seven nails its fight scenes for the most part, with editing that provides a retro feel and has a knack for getting its audience to not only size up the onscreen subject, but visualize what that combatant is looking at on the other side of the lens. Of course, in reality there is nothing but a director and his crew on the opposite end, and this remake's greatest flaw is that it never lets you forget that: It's just a popcorn flick and nothing more. While the story hits its peak in the middle as the group develop their camaraderie, the buildup yields a finale that doesn't recall Sturges so much as it does The Expendables. This attempt to reboot a Western from the sixties feels more like a one-sided, eighties hero-fantasy film, where the enemies are just synthetic "evil" types lacking any depth. Even Sarsgaard doesn't seem quite sure what to do with his empty vessel of a stock villain. The script is crackling with good humor, but the deeper resonance needed to propel this offering to modern-classic status is not there. As a stylized fever dream viewed purely by its aesthetics, it's pretty fun. For potential moviegoers, it truly depends on what the film's title means to you.