Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 classic “The Magnificent Seven” (itself a remake of the 1954 classic “Seven Samurai”) is a fun, familiar romp through many of the cliches and traditions that made the western such a popular genre back in the day.
First, I should explain to the young people in the audience. Westerns are movies set in the Old West of America, often around the time of the Civil War. They once roamed movie theaters (there weren’t multiplexes back then) in herds as large as buffalo. In other words, they were the superhero movies of yesteryear.
In fact, let me put this movie in today’s terms: The Magnificent Seven are basically The Avengers, but with rifles instead of repulsor rays. Denzel Washington is Captain America, the morally upright leader; Chris Pine is Iron Man, his smart-ass No. 2; Ethan Hawke is Thor, the legendary war hero; Vincent D’Onofrio is HULK, soft-spoken but good at smashing; Byung-hun Lee is Black Widow, the assassin; and Martin Sensmeier is Hawkeye, the bow-and-arrow guy who doesn’t get to do much. Manuel Garci-Rulfo is Nick Fury, I guess, because they are both kinda the odd man out. Granted, it’s not a perfect analogy. Thor, for example, would never have a crisis of confidence.
The Loki of our story is played by Peter Sarsgaard. He doesn’t want to take over the world, just the town of Rose Creek. And he has an army of nameless, faceless thugs to do his fighting for him.
For those of you who hate comic book comparisons, here’s the real deal: Sarsgaad stars as Bartholomew Bogue, an evil businessman who owns the local mine and now wants the town as well. He rides into town with some thugs, sets the church on fire, has several men killed, and promises to come back in three weeks and everybody better be gone.
Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett — I bet you thought there weren’t any women in this movie), whose husband is killed during Bogue’s visit, runs off to hire some killers to stand up to him. She runs into Sam Chisolm (Washington), a bounty hunter who has a prior history with Bogue.
Chisolm takes on the job, even though it’s suicide, and proceeds to round up all the actors listed in the third paragraph — all with personalities pretty similar to those mentioned above.
The Seven arrive in Rose Creek and make short work of the men Bogue has left in charge. Now the team has only a few days to turn the shop owners and farmers of Rose Creek into a fighting force ready to take on the army that Bogue will be bringing with him once he hears about what’s gone down.
“The Magnificent Seven” isn’t an original or groundbreaking film but it isn’t trying to be. It’s a solid, entertaining throwback to the movies that inspired it. The western vistas are gorgeous. The violence is plenty but not gratuitous — people die, but without blood splattered everywhere.
The Seven are captivating each in their own way — my favorite is D’Onofrio’s character, a man so gruff he’s referred to as a bear in a man’s clothing.
But hey, it is 2016 and so certain changes have been made: The Seven are a much more diverse bunch than the 1960 squad, as is the style of the times, and Mrs. Cullen doesn’t just sit around making stew for the menfolk. She can handle a firearm just as good as the hired killers, thank you very much.