THE MAG­NIF­I­CENT SEVEN

Spoiler: only half of that ti­tle is true.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - phil De semlyen

Direc­tor An­toine Fuqua cast Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vin­cent D’onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Peter Sars­gaard, Ha­ley Ben­nett

plot Rose Krick, 1887. Ter­rorised by rob­ber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Sars­gaard), the towns­peo­ple send newly wid­owed Emma Cullen (Ben­nett) to find a band of men crazy enough to tackle him. En­ter dead-eyed bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Wash­ing­ton), chirpy gun­slinger Josh Fara­day (Chris Pratt) and five more lethal re­cruits.

IF RE­MAK­ING ONE clas­sic is tough, re­mak­ing two at the same time feels like an im­pos­si­ble mis­sion. So it proves with An­toine Fuqua’s heavy-handed re­tread of the team-up yarn that birthed both John Sturges’ The Mag­nif­i­cent

Seven and Kuro­sawa’s Seven Sa­mu­rai. Lack­ing the froth and fun of the for­mer, and the hu­man­ist joys of the lat­ter, it’s re­plete with py­rotech­nics, slickly chore­ographed gun bat­tles and a body count that would make even Peck­in­pah rub his eyes, but has lit­tle fresh to say about the genre it homages and a mirth­less way of say­ing it.

The set-up, as any­one who’s spent a bank hol­i­day in front of the telly will know, has bad’uns leech­ing off a small Western com­mu­nity. Driven to des­per­a­tion, the lo­cals hire gun­men to end their tor­ment. The zeit­geisty vil­lains are mean-eyed cap­i­tal­ists with a min­ing concern led by rob­ber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Sars­gaard). Even by Western terms, he’s ir­re­deemable, an­nounc­ing him­self by slith­er­ing into a church meet­ing and in­form­ing the lo­cals they’re “stand­ing in the way of God”, be­fore killing sev­eral of the con­gre­ga­tion.

Played with sleepy-eyed malev­o­lence by Peter Sars­gaard, Bogue is the scum­bag the Seven must take on. Of the posse, Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, strap­ping on the spurs of Yul Bryn­ner’s leader in the orig­i­nal, and Chris Pratt, a looser Mc­queenalike gun­slinger with a snappy line in lethal card tricks, get the most screen time as they set about assem­bling a crew to take him down.

Wash­ing­ton’s Train­ing Day mucker Ethan Hawke, af­flicted by the same PTSD as Robert Vaughn in the orig­i­nal, gets the deep­est back­story as a Civil War vet­eran dubbed ‘the Angel Of Death’. Byung-hun Lee’s as­sas­sin, Manuel Gar­cia-rulfo’s Mex­i­can out­law and Martin Sens­meier’s Co­manche loner are de­fined mainly by their killing skills. Hav­ing the most fun is Vin­cent D’onofrio, whose sav­age yet rolly-polly tracker of­fers the ex­act mid­way point between Blaz­ing

Sad­dles’ Mongo and the bear from The Revenant. Un­like Sturges and Kuro­sawa’s films, both of which take their time, Fuqua rushes to get to the busi­ness at hand. Oddly, the posse’s eth­nic­ity barely war­rants men­tion, de­spite of­fer­ing much po­ten­tial for pep­pery com­ment on Amer­ica’s prej­u­dices. How the script could use a slug of the risk and ir­rev­er­ence Blaz­ing Sad­dles, Lit­tle Big Man and, more re­cently, Django and The Hate­ful Eight have brought to the genre. And the show­down it­self? The im­prov may­hem of Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan’s fi­nal bat­tle is a clear touch­point, as is The Wild Bunch’s fa­mous cli­max, but with a 12A rat­ing in mind, it’s an oddly blood­less swirl of bul­lets even as the bod­ies pile up. The emo­tional in­vest­ment that should make the Seven’s gal­lantry no­ble and mov­ing isn’t quite there. They de­serve bet­ter. ver­dict slick but for­get­table, Fuqua’s sui­cide squad is a ma­cho posse movie that could use a bit of fun and dar­ing. it’s The Mag­nif­i­cent Seven, but the “mag­nif­i­cent” is silent.

“Well, there’s seven of them and they look mag­nif­i­cent. What shall we call it?”

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