HOLLYWOOD—I’ll just say it, I’ve probably seen 3 Westerns my entire life. It’s a genre that is just difficult to get excited about because I personally find Westerns ladled with moments that just slow down the pacing of the flick and the narrative. However, the remake “The Magnificent Seven” starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt surprised me in more ways than I expected.
For starters, we get introduced to seven characters, hence the film’s title who are so unique and original it’s hard to fathom, that each are allowed ample screen time. They are well fleshed out, and the audience will identify with each of them. We have Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who is the leader of the bunch, and wields the most authority.
He is a warrant officer form Wichita, Kansas (yes, the movie makes certain that is engrained into the audience’s mind). He’s a no holds bar type of fellow that don’t take no mess, so when Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) begs for his assistance in rescuing her town from the overthrow of our villain, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the audience can’t help, but fall in love with this young lad.
That connection might be a direct result of what I would call an epic opening that finds a way to suture the audience right away; we get to see just how wicked Bogue can be when he unleashes a blood shed on the town’s church and several residents to ensure they understand he is the power player and they must all adhere to his demands or else.
When the audience first meets Sam, he is on the hunt for a criminal on the loose, and the town seems totally frazzled by his sudden arrival. As he begins the recruitment process, we meet Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), who brings a level of humor and fun to the movie. It’s a role that perfectly suits Pratt in my opinion. The chemistry between Washington and Ethan Hawke is so palatable; I mean ever since watching those two in “Training Day” they should team up more often. Hawke portrays Goodnight Robicheaux, a sharpshooter, who has his sidekick Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a man who wields a knife unlike any other.
These two are like a Bonnie and Clyde duo, and its fun to watch them interact with the not only each other, but the others in the crew. Rounding out the ‘Seven,’ are Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw, who can crack a joke or two, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), as a brute whose size can be quite intimidating, and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), an exiled Comanche warrior who fires an arrow that is deadly just looking at it.
What fascinates me the most about the “The Magnificent Seven” is the direction of Antoine Fuqua who is no stranger to the action genre. I will admit I have to knock the flick for having a few moments that did almost cause me to fall asleep; there was that transition period between recruiting the crew and them making their way into town that slowed the pacing of the movie down slightly.
I can overlook that as the big climax is well worth the wait. I mean the action-sequences, the gun battles, the drama, and the surprises. Yes, this is a movie that has a ton of ‘whoa,’ I didn’t expect that moments that totally opened my eyes even more to how great a Western can truly be if done right. Things don’t always end happily ever-after as so many of us expect in the cinematic universe. I will admit I HATED Sarsgaard’s character, which is a testament to good writing; the villain is an equal if not bigger adversary to our hero and to finally see Sam and Bogue come face-to-face for that final showdown was worth every moment on the screen.
For those of you not big fans of Westerns, just consider “The Magnificent Seven.” While it can’t compare to the classic, for those generations who are not avid fans of the genre this is a movie that introduces the Western in a way that might be more exhilarating than ever expected.