TIFF 2016: Fuqua's 'The Magnificent Seven' is Sheer Entertainment
Seven outlaws come together to save a helpless town from a greedy tyrant in Antoine Fuqua's new version of The Magnificent Seven, a remake of the original 1960 film (directed by John Sturges) which in itself was an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. That's probably the most confusing thing to be said about this new movie since the story its telling is as straight-forward and as expected as you've seen many times before. The good news, however, is what Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven lacks in originality it more than makes up for in sheer entertainment, for those wondering if this one is worth seeing.
The year is 1879 and the town of Rose Creek has been descended upon by bandits looking to kick out its residents and mine the land for gold. The villainous group is led by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, looking incredibly sleepy) and he's the typical bully, a guy who only talks tough when he's surrounded by his henchmen. To ensure he means business, Bogue turns the town into a war zone and even burns down the local church for good measure. Scared and destitute, the local residents turn to sympathetic outlaw Sam Chisolm for help. He's played by Denzel Washington and that becomes his cue to round up a small posse of freedom fighters for backup.
There may indeed be seven multi-ethnic heroes in The Magnificent Seven, but only four of them are given any halfway decent character development. The aforementioned Sam is the bounty hunting leader of the group, Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) is the group's charismatic comic relief, Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) is a traumatized war veteran and Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio) is the crazy wild card. This rag tag group of antiheroes is nothing new but the secret ingredient that makes the film work is the cast's chemistry together. In a similar story structure it's the same thing that worked for the Ocean's Eleven ensemble and it's also the same thing that worked against the Suicide Squad crew earlier this summer.
Part of the film's credit goes to director Antoine Fuqua (known for Training Day, Brooklyn's Finest, The Equalizer) who manages to take the suicidal task of remaking a classic film and delivering an enjoyable rollercoaster ride. This is his third pairing with both Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and their working relationship translates to a very fun and solid chemistry onscreen. Denzel in particular continues to be so charismatic and engaging in The Magnificent Seven that it's easy to take him for granted. There are still a few movie stars left in Hollywood and he is definitely one of the greats.
Fuqua's updated The Magnificent Seven isn't searching for anything deep or profound, it is well-crafted A-B-C storytelling and on those terms its audience will be fulfilled. This is a movie that sets up seven reluctant fighters in its first half and pays it off in the second half with action, fun and a huge Gatling gun.
Marco's TIFF Rating: B
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