The Magnificent Seven

**

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Magnificent Seven
"The John Ford cliches clang against the Sergio Leone sloppy seconds with the hollow ring of a church bell."

Although Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven may rival Akira Kurosawa's original three-and-a-half hour Seven Samurai and John Sturges' enjoyable 1960 remake for length, clocking in at more than two hours, it is a pale imitation in terms of charcterisation and story. Watching the opening 15 minutes, in which townsfolk in Rose Creek find themselves at the mercy of the ruthless owner of the Bogue Mining company (Peter Saarsgard), the film that most readily springs to mind is Mel Brooks' (also far superior) Blazing Saddles, only shorn of every scrap of humour and self-awareness. In fact the similarities are so numerous that I half expected (and rather hoped someone would) punch a horse to the ground during the opening fight. Instead, Fuqua approaches the material with such a straight face that its hard to take things seriously, as the John Ford cliches clang against the Sergio Leone sloppy seconds with the hollow ring of a church bell.

Leading the pack this time out is Denzel Washington, as Sam Chisholm, a bounty hunter with a heart of gold and one of those darned past tragedies that this sort of film can't live without. He's cool to look at and as watchable as ever but, unlike Cleavon Little in Brooks' film, the fact that he is African-American raises not a single eyebrow, even among those whoopin' and a-hollerin' bad guys, despite the year being 1879 - a modern day piece of airbrushing that feels as though screenwriters Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto simply couldn't be bothered trying to examine that complexity, preferring to merely ignore it instead. It seems particularly odd given that the ethnic origins of some of the other characters cause friction between them, most notably between hard-drinking, sleight-of-hand merchant Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) - the only character other than Chisholm who holds any interest - and sullen "Texican" Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).

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Rounding out the pack are a 'legendary' confederate soldier Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), whose character proves to be less interesting than his name, his knife-throwing Asian side-kick Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), who apparently always one hand on his Maybelline War Paint Kit, and backwoodsman Jack Horne (played by Vincent D'Onofrio with an almost indecipherable accent, not that it matters since his religion-spouting adds nothing to the plot). Hayley Bennet, meanwhile, plays the feisty townswoman who brings them together and proves a crack shot with a gun.

Given the length, you would think there would be plenty of time to get under the skin of these characters but Wenk, Pizzolatto and Fuqua are simply not interested, opting instead for all exposition all the time. When the action sequences come along they are well handled and slick but as we have no investment in the charcters they are tension-free technical exercises. The script offers the actors little to cling to, often requiring them to deliver a single line with no preamble, only reinforcing the film's fake and stagey quality. When the dust has settled and Cullen is forced to say "Thanks" with an awkward shrug of her shoulders, you almost expect her to add, "have a nice day, we hope you'll visit the Western theme park again soon". Audiences most certainly won't be back.

Reviewed on: 18 Sep 2016
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Seven gunmen team up to help save a village from an evil mining boss.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **

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