PLOT A small town hires seven rogue gunmen for protection against a ruthless businessman.
CAST Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Haley Bennett
RATED PG-13 (some strong violence)
BOTTOM LINE An ethnically diverse cast and snappy action scenes make for an entertaining update of the 1960 classic.
Back in 1960, John Sturges remade Akira Kurosawa’s three-hour masterpiece, “The Seven Samurai,” into a Western called “The Magnificent Seven.” By swapping a medieval Japanese village for a Mexican town and turning the samurai into gunslingers — played by top stars like Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen — Sturges wound up delivering one of the last great Westerns of the genre’s Golden Age.
Why remake the remake? The main selling point of Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” is its diverse cast. With Denzel Washington, Byung-hun Lee and American Indian actor Martin Sensmeier in lead roles, “The Magnificent Seven” aims to de-homogenize an exceedingly white genre. There’s another reason, though: Westerns long ago fell out of favor, but audiences still love them when they’re done right.
The good news is that “The Magnificent Seven” remains a simple and satisfying tale of good versus evil. Fuqua sets the tone early with ruthless industrialist Bart Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) strolling into the little town of Rose Creek, killing its citizens and burning their church. Newly widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) locates rogue gunman Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington, dependably cool and calm) and offers him everything the town has in exchange for protection. “I’ve been offered a lot before,” Chisolm says, swiping a line from the 1960 film, “but never everything.”
Chisolm’s six recruits are a mixed bag. Civil War veteran Goodnight Robichaux (Ethan Hawke) suffers from PTSD; knife-wielding Billy Rocks (Lee) moves like a Marvel ninja; Jack Horne is a religious zealot played by an enjoyably weird Vincent D’Onofrio; Comanche Red Harvest (Senemeier) basically drops out of nowhere and joins for no real reason; Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) barely registers. Playing to type as Josh Faraday, a cocky gambler, is Chris Pratt.
These characters barely acknowledge race, but maybe that’s the point. Fuqua is mostly interested in action — showdowns, shootouts, shattered glass, flumes of dynamited earth — and he does it very well. (The appearance of a Gatling gun, the Old West version of a doomsday device, raises the stakes dramatically.) All of that makes “The Magnificent Seven” a solid Western with a modern-day cast and an old-fashioned sense of entertainment.
7 is the number for these 4 films
The Magnificent Seven,” the remake of the 1960 Western classic, gallops into theaters today. We’ve got that movie’s number along with these other films about magnificent groups of seven.
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937) — Snow White got top billing, but it was the pint-size septet who stole Walt Disney’s first full-length animated feature. It’s still the highest-grossing animated film (adjusted for inflation), according to Box Office Mojo.
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954) — The title sums up the plot of this musical, which featured amazing dance numbers, including a barn-raising scene that took three weeks to shoot. Among the brides was Julie Newmar, aka Catwoman on TV’s “Batman.”
THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS (1955) — Bob Hope starred in this biopic of vaudevillian Eddie Foy, who drags his brood of seven into his act. The highlight was a cameo by James Cagney, who reprised his Oscar-winning role of George M. Cohan in a musical number with Hope.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012) — Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken were among the motley crew in this Tarantino-esque tale of a drunken screenwriter, a kidnapped Shih Tzu and the dog’s gangster master (Woody Harrelson).
— Daniel Bubbeo