Western misses target
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (M)
Director: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Haley Bennett Verdict: Echo fades fast on blasts from the past
CONSIDER this a cover version of the famous 1960 box-office smash The Magnificent Seven.
Which in turn was how Hollywood first hummed along to the original Japanese cut of Seven Samurai, composed by the master Akira Kurosawa. While 2016’s rendition hits the right notes, it can hardly be described as a number that has been performed with consistent gusto.
Fans of the western genre will definitely recognise the tune, but may not find it very catchy. If they do, it will come down to the charismatic leader of the band, the everdependable Denzel Washington.
He plays Sam Chisholm, one of the greatest bounty hunters in the old west. Put a price on a man’s head, and Chisholm will get the job done. No questions asked.
However, while passing through a one-horse, no-hope town named Rose Creek, Chisholm accepts a job that clearly sits outside his usual range of services. The town’s residents have been terrorised by a ruthless robber baron by the name of Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). They want him out of the picture by any means necessary.
But Bogue has an army of badasses and no-goodniks at his beck and call. The next time they descend on Rose Creek could be the end of the place.
Chisholm’s only chance is to fight fire with fire. He handpicks his own defence team of trained killers, crack gunmen and freelance miscreants.
As you would expect, all dusty roads lead to one heck of a whamblam-thank-you-ma’am closing shootout. As far as skirmishes go, this gritty extended spectacle delivers in a second-tier Tarantino kind of way.
However, on an overall basis, this film feels as if it is lacking a certain something. It could well be due to the questionable magnificence of some of the title characters. Washington’s Chisholm remains above scrutiny throughout, and Chris Pratt’s wisecracking gun-slinger Josh Faraday has his moments both as cunning aggressor and welcome light relief.
But whenever the film – which runs too long at 133 minutes – hands valuable screen time to the likes of boozehound Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) or ‘Texican’ terroriser Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a slick and soulless sameness creeps in.