West­ern misses tar­get

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch


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.

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