A group of outlaws band together to protect a town from a vicious land baron, in this remake of the classic 60s Western
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio
Genre: Western / Action
Release date: September 23, 2016
Running time: 133 mins
Denzel Washington reteams with frequent collaborator Antoine Fuqua for this remake of John Sturges’ classic Western, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (albeit with a much better theme tune).
The 1960 film is warmly regarded in the UK, largely due to its perennial status as a Bank Holiday staple (presumably the Great Escape remake won’t be too far behind). As remakes go, Fuqua’s version is perfectly entertaining in terms of action and character, but it doesn’t leave much of an impact and is unlikely to replace the original in anyone’s affections.
Dazzling displays of star power
Set in 1879, the film centres on the town of Rose Creek, where vicious, mine-owning land baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is intent on forcing out the townsfolk, gunning them down in cold blood and burning down their church for good measure.
In desperation, feisty widow Emma (Haley Bennett) seeks out gun-for-hire Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who puts together a posse of outlaws – including charming gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt in the Steve McQueen role), haunted former sharp-shooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and bear-like mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) – to take on Bogue’s veritable army of gunmen.
The most interesting thing about the remake is its ethnically diverse casting. Alongside Washington’s Chisolm there’s also Manuel Garcia Rulfo’s Mexican (“Oh good, we’ve got a Mexican”, quips Pratt), Byung-hun Lee’s knife-throwing Asian and Martin Sensmeier’s war-painted Native American, though we learn next to nothing about their characters, which feels like a wasted opportunity.
Washington and Pratt are both terrific, giving off dazzling displays of star power, even if it does occasionally feel like The Magnificent Two and Five Other Guys.
That said, Hawke is good value and Bennett makes a strong impression (expect her Hollywood stock to rise accordingly), while D’Onofrio turns in a delightfully weird performance as Horne, giving his character an oddly high-pitched voice.
Fuqua is a proven talent when it comes to action sequences and the final act doesn’t disappoint, unfolding as a lengthy gun battle enlivened by a few traps that the townsfolk set for the bad guys, as well as Bogue upping the stakes by busting out a Gatling gun.
In addition, Fuqua gives each cast member a chance to shine (Bennett included), though the supposedly emotional moments are undersold by the script and don’t quite hit the mark.
It’s more like The Pretty Good Seven than The Magnificent Seven, but this is still an entertaining remake, even if it’s not destined for classic status.