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  Magnificent Seven, The Goliath Has A Gatling GunBuy this film here.
Year: 2016
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Joss, Cam Gigandet, Emil Beheshti, Mark Ashworth, Billy Slaughter
Genre: Western
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is a land baron in the United States, a few years after the Civil War was ended, and he means to make a lot of money from his properties, which he has more often than not taken by force. One such region contains the town of Rose Creek, and the population are in a state of near-panic as they argue they need to find a way out of the terrible deal Bogue has imposed upon them, but as they meet in the church to come to a decision, their overseer's men, and then the man himself, arrive. He stands at the front and informs them all their town is pathetic when money is concerned, so he will return in three weeks and there had better be a change: to emphasise his point, he has his men gun down everyone who might have stood up to him.

What Rose Creek needs is a hero, or maybe... seven of them? The Magnificent Seven began life as an Akira Kurosawa movie, one of the first truly international hits from Japan thanks to the amount of new cinemas willing to play films from around the globe, not simply local product or Hollywood's domination of the business. Such was the impression it made that remakes were being fashioned for decades after, the whole small community hires a bunch of guns to get them out of their jam being a cast iron plot and a design classic all in one package, so little wonder variations have been found ever since. This seven, however, had few references to Kurosawa, preferring to draw its resources from the 1960 effort.

That had featured a selection of stars who had gone down in history as one of the most ideal movie trivia questions of all time, name the seven, though in this case there were rather more Brad Dexters than there were Yul Brynners. Would this go down in Western movie renown in quite the same way, as not only a classic of the genre but an unbeatable example of how to remake a movie and render it just as impressively as the original was? It did not seem likely, as while director Antoine Fuqua delivered a slick, commercial product as he had been requested to craft, he failed to offer up something quite as iconic as what had gone before, even though his cast were very well selected; that may have been a sticking point for diehard fans, however.

What a lot of them complained about was the racial diversity of the seven, which might have been accurate to Western society in 2016, but was farfetched in the late eighteen-seventies. Never mind that their feats of accuracy with weapons were akin to superhuman, the fact that an African American, a Mexican, an American Indian, an East Asian and three white dudes (including a shtick-reliant Chris Pratt) were hanging out together, and one of those white dudes was a dedicated Indian killer, was a step too far. But that was actually a strength of the film, as the fact they were an unlikely and motley crew made the other characters underestimate them, for they pooled their resources and that created a stronger unit as a result. Certainly they didn't go around flinging racial insults at one another, as apparently the naysayers would have preferred, but they convinced as a ragtag band of brothers.

There were bigger issues than that here, and that was in the amplification of the John Sturges remake to what could conservatively be described as operatic levels. Such was the degree of mayhem and bloodshed here that you were surprised there was anyone left standing come the end of the story, the bodies littering the ground presumably indicating Rose Creek had become so underpopulated thanks to the battle that it was hardly worth rebuilding the place, it was a mere shell now. Also, too often the camaraderie between the seven came across as contrived rather than easygoing, more deeds were needed to prove their respect for one another rather than dad jokes shared at lulls in the action. But Fuqua made the better aspects count, so this was by no means a disaster, and besides, it was good to see a big budget Hollywood Western with proper stars as an alternative to all those indie works in the field that were clogging up the arthouses, it bolstered the genre as a viable one - this was a decent-sized hit, after all, bringing in seasoned fans of the form and newcomers who admired the actors alike. James Horner's score was one of his last, and as if to admit he could not better Elmer Bernstein's all-time great music, we ended on a burst of it, as much a nod to the original as Washington only removing his hat once, just as Brynner had done.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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