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The Magnificent Seven

Updated: Mar 21, 2023


So often remakes of classic films simply replay the story you know, spiffed up with louder music, better special effects or bigger actors, but prove to be an empty shell. Not this time.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Southpaw) with a spotless mash up of old-time Western sensibility and modern action flick pace, the film opens with an emerging mining town absolutely besieged by a very bad business man and his henchman.

Bartholemew Bogue (come on, that's a great villain name) is played with a fascinating quiet power by Peter Sarsgaard. He seems physically weak, but is surrounded by a powerful posse that crushes anyone in their way.

When Emma Cullen (a terrific Hally Bennett) sees her husband murdered by Bogue, she seeks revenge, which comes to her in the form of a bounty hunter named Chisolm and played with every bit of his powerful screen presence by Denzel Washington.

Joining Chisolm on the job to recapture the lost town is a fun, eclectic and perfectly cast group to fill out the 7.

Chris Pratt is even more fun than he was in "Guardians" as Faraday, a womanizing, card trick spinning gunman. For me, this is Pratt's best role to date, giving him some huge laughs in the film, but also a full rounded, dangerous gunslinger that you wouldn't want to cross.

Ethan Hawke is excellent as legendary sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (man these names are good), Asian box-office superstar Byung-hun Lee is excellent as his sidekick Billy Rocks, Manuel Garcia Rulfo is Mexican gunman Vasquez and Martin Sensmeier is Commanche Warrior, Red Harvest, a renegade warrior looking for a mission and finding one with our boys.

Last, and at first I thought least, is Vincent D'Onofrio as mountain man Jack Horne.

At first, D'Onofrio's performance is so odd and so mannered in voice and choice that I thought he was pulling a late-in-the-career Brando move.

But as the terrific screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) unspools, you begin to see how each of these men is drawn in specific fashion, that each has their own deep burden and even deeper loyalty. The screenplay is shockingly good for a genre film and the dialogue feels real at every turn.

By the end, the eccentricities of D'Onofrio's performance somehow seemed perfect for the bear-like mountain man and his simple minded but passionate philosophy of life. His few words probably better express the heart of the film better than any standard philosophizing every could.

Washington has become one of our best American actors and can make lousy screenplays seem powerful with his delivery, so his acting and Pizzolato's words working in tandem, this becomes FAR more than a standard remake.

The final showdown is flawless action filmmaking and hearkens back to the classic Westerns of year's past. It's visually so well staged that you always know exactly where our heroes are and where the black hats are and in this day of "fast cuts equals clever", it's a refreshing change.

There's a scene near the end where two main adversaries battle one-on-one and the action finds them under a massive church bell tower that plays a critical role. An average writer and director would have jumped at the chance to have the good guy shoot a rope and have the church bell crush the bad guy below in some simplistic, mid-brow representation of good v evil. Not here. Pizzolatto writes the scene into an entire different realm that leaves the bell in place but three lives changed. It's excellent writing.

With James Horner's last music score before his untimely death and beautiful location photography that feels authentic down to the last 1800's detail, Fuqua's film is a surprisingly excellent movie.

As a matter of fact, I'd agree with the title and go for magnificent. It gets a full-gallop, shoot out riddled, dynamite blasted and cleverly crafted A+.

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