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article imageReview: ‘The Magnificent Seven’ updates the Western for modern audiences Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 26, 2016 in Entertainment
‘The Magnificent Seven’ remake is a Western at heart but action movie by definition, plausibly redefining the main characters and adding a lot of explosions.
The Western is one of the most well-defined film genres, but that also opens it up to some great opportunities for genre-bending narratives. Clint Eastwood was an icon of the Old West movies, yet one of his best pictures turned the genre on its head: High Plains Drifter centred on an anti-hero determined to teach the townspeople as much of a lesson as the hooligans tormenting it. In the same sense, remakes can reimagine the original stories and provide them with different meanings or outcomes that are better suited to contemporary audiences. The 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven makes some changes to the key characters as well as the attitudes of the victims.
Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is amassing a fortune at the expense of hardworking farmers and property owners as he forcibly displaces them to expand his mining operations. An unprovoked slaughter in the once peaceful town rouses Ellen Cullen (Haley Bennett) to seek out guns-for-hire willing to protect the townsfolk for the small amount they have to offer. Her search brings her to Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a certified bounty hunter with other reasons to take on the impossible task of stopping Bogue and his army of thugs. He spends the next few days recruiting capable men to stand with him against the murderous tyrant: quick draw Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a.k.a. “The Gambler”; former soldier Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a.k.a. “The Sharpshooter”; his companion knife thrower Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a.k.a. “The Assassin”; wanted gunslinger Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a.k.a. “The Outlaw”; hunter Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), a.k.a. “The Tracker”; and outcast Native Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a.k.a. “The Warrior.” It’s their skill versus Bogue’s sheer numbers and it’s unknown who will emerge victorious… or even alive.
A scene from  The Magnificent Seven
A scene from 'The Magnificent Seven'
Sony Pictures
In spite of never working in this particular genre before, director Antoine Fuqua has built his career around filming great, often underestimated, men facing insurmountable obstacles. The original film of the same title was already a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, so it’s not unthinkable that this film should deviate from its predecessor. The gist of the story remains the same as does some of the memorable dialogue, such as “If God didn’t want them sheared, he wouldn’t have made them sheep”; however, the attitudes of some of the characters — particularly the townspeople — have been updated. In the 1960 version the targets cower in their homes, refusing to support those who’ve agreed to assist them; instead, they look upon them with equal suspicion and fear. In the new film the locals are fed up with Bogue’s bullying, and ready to stand up and fight for what’s theirs. Likewise, the heroes are a multi-racial group of warriors whose union still makes sense in the context of the narrative, fighting for what’s right rather than the comparably nominal payday.
For better or worse, updating a Western for a contemporary audience involves developing it into more of an action movie. Thus once all the entertaining introductions are completed in the first hour of the picture, it’s time for the defenders to get their hands dirty. Their first confrontation with Bogue’s men results in a stand-off followed by an exciting shootout that leaves dozens dead and the audience anticipating the final showdown. With the last half-hour of the movie dedicated to the town’s defense, the lead-up and added character development is almost negligible. However the battle between a handful of skilled men and an army pays off as a spectacle of explosions and conflict… save for the very last struggle, which is a little contrived in its rationale.
Unsurprisingly, the cast is perfectly suited to their roles with Fuqua recruiting a few performers he’s worked with previously and expanding the list with other more-than-capable actors to bring this iconic band of protagonists to life in what is probably an unnecessary remake, but still wholly enjoyable film. By changing the race and gender of some of the key roles, the director not only updates the narrative but makes it accessible for a wider audience who can also partake in the fun by making personalized wanted posters via the movie’s generator.
The film also had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was selected as the opening night gala. Check out the rest of our TIFF 2016 coverage.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke
More about the magnificent seven, Denzel washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio
 
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