Current Issue #477

Review: The Magnificent Seven

Review: The Magnificent Seven

The Western has supposedly been dead for years and yet it just keeps on coming back, but most Westerns these days are grim allegories, deconstructionist revisions or even anti-Westerns (don’t ask).

Yes, producer/director Antoine Fuqua’s epic (a remake, of course, of the 1960 pic of the same name, which was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai) is also ostensibly a Western, but it in fact turns out to be a seriously violent action saga dripping with bloke-iness.

The mining town of Rose Creek back in 1879 is invaded by gun-toting baddies, led by the baddest of the lot, one Bartholomew Bogue (as played by against-type Peter Sarsgaard, almost quivering with nastiness). Bogue starts running the population out of town and/or murdering them in the streets, so he can forcibly take over the mine, and the recently-widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) and young Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) go in search of help (as in revenge) and find it a few days horse-ride away, in the form of ‘duly-sworn warrant officer’ (ie. bounty hunter) Sam Chisolm (played, naturally, by Fuqua’s favourite actor Denzel Washington).

Sam then unites another six guys for assistance and they’re quite a bunch, no matter how improbable (and even, ahem, PC?) the gang might look. And they include: gambling gunslinger Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt, a hoot); showman Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke from Fuqua’s Training Day with Denzel) and his friend and sharpshooting star attraction Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee); comic relief bear-of-a-man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio); wanted Mexican Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); and a Comanche named Red Harvest, who’s coolly portrayed by Native Alaskan Martin Sensmeier.

After initially blasting the crap out of the gaggle of villains keeping guard over Rose Creek, the seven then set about fortifying the place and training the townsfolk to fight, and the grand finale, when it comes (after much macho characterisation and matey joking), is gloriously intense, over-the-top and bloody. So bloody, indeed, that you wonder how this one scraped by with an M Rating, partner.

No guilty pleasure, this most satisfying, testosterone-fuelled shoot-‘em-up is great fun, with pleasing work from the whole cast (although Pratt almost upstages them all), a suitably sweaty atmosphere, a soundtrack that playfully keeps on almost breaking into that famous theme, and that mighty climactic sequence that almost makes you think of Sam Peckinpah’s far less moral The Wild Bunch. Almost.

Rated M. The Magnificent Seven is in cinemas now.

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