“He’s a legend, or is that all you are” This interaction between Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke in Antoine Fuqua’s remake of classic Western “The Magnificent Seven” suggests a film which is attempting to deconstruct the classical legends associated with the American West. Instead Fuqua presents a film which is undoubtedly fun in parts, but offers very little substance above the enjoyment of Western shoot-outs.
The movie opens with the residents of Rose Creek being tormented by industrialist and bad guy Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). After her husband is brutally murdered by Brogue, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) tracks down bounty hunter Sam Chilson (Denzel Washington). Chilson soon accepts the offer to defend the town and quickly recruits local gambler Sam Fereday (Chris Pratt). The film then travels a well worn route as the duo set about recruiting the final members of their group.
The titular Magnificent Seven is completed by Ethan Hawke’s legendary marksman Goodnight Robicheux and his knife-expert companion Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Ruflo), Indian warrior Red (Martin Sensmeier), and final member Jack Horne. Vincent Donofrio steals many scenes as the stocky Horne, especially in his introduction in which he emerges from the wilderness to dispatch two would-be-thieves. The eponymous seven then ride to the rescue of the small town.
The final battle between the magnificent seven and the private army of Bogue is where the film really comes to life. It is a gloriously over the top climax which looks back with nostalgia at older Westerns such as “The Wild Bunch” or “Young Guns”. There is nothing especially new in this final showdown, but it would be a lie to suggest that there is no enjoyment to be had in the images of innumerable men being gunned down by the gun-slinging skills of the titular heroes.
The central flaw of this remake is that it suffers from similar problems to Fuqua’s earlier directorial effort “Southpaw”. In that film the central character portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal was allowed inconsequential scenes to develop a character, but was stuck in a film which never took the time to analyse the themes it was raising. “The Magnificent Seven” is also plagued by these shortcomings as the individual characters are only ever given hints of troubled pasts or genuinely intresting motives.
Antoine Fuqa’s remake is perfectly fine when viewed as a popcorn movie whose job is to provide some entertainment, but in a week in which the vastly superior “Hell or High Water” is showing in cinemas across the country it comes across as a desperately shallow piece of work.