By Bradley Griffith
It would be a fair assessment to say that Westerns are a dying breed, except for the fact that they are already dead. There have been very few Westerns released in the last decade (compared to the golden age of cinema) and even fewer that are quality films. The new remake of “The Magnificent Seven” is not going to usher in a miraculous rebirth of the genre, but it is entertaining.
The year is 1879 and in the small western town of Rose Creek a wealthy industrialist is terrorizing the town. Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is interested in one thing only: gold. He will do whatever it takes to mine every speck of gold from Rose Creek and the surrounding hills, including bribery, arson, theft, and murder.
When a select group of people, led by Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer), dare to speak out against Bogue, he promptly has them murdered. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), the newly-made widow of Matthew, has already made up her mind how to deal with Bogue. She will fight back. But she knows she can’t do it alone. She also knows that the citizens of Rose Creek would be slaughtered if they attempted to fight Bogue’s henchmen on their own. She needs trained gunmen, and she needs them fast.
Sam Chisolm is a warrant officer and bounty hunter out of Kansas. He hunts down criminals on the run and returns them to face justice, for a reward. Chisolm, or at least his reputation, is well known across the west. He is extremely fast and deadly accurate with his guns.
Emma approaches Chisolm asking him for help. She offers him all the money she has if he will help defend Rose Creek. He asks if she seeks revenge and her response succinctly sums up the plot to the entire movie: “I seek righteousness, but I’ll take revenge.” Chisolm locates six other seasoned fighters to aid in the cause, Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Together they ready the town and its citizens to face the army gathered by Bogue.
Of course, the story-line is very similar to the original version of “The Magnificent Seven” released in 1960. A band of misfit fighters must band together to save an entire town from a despot and his army. Where the story flowed linearly and logically in the 1960 version, the plot leading up to the big showdown in Rose Creek in the current version is choppy and disjointed. Many leaps of faith are necessary to follow the story of how Chisolm selects the other six members of his crew. Several aspects make no sense, and it’s better if you just accept the story as it’s written and don’t think about it too much.
What “The Magnificent Seven” does provide is everything that you want in a Western. There’s many gunfights, saloons, card games, Indians, horses, good guys against impossible odds, and silent hushes as the good guy walks into a saloon filled with sketchy characters. It employs all the classic Western stereotypes.
The casting in the movie was also spot-on. Denzel Washington is his usual excellent self as the leader of the group while Chris Pratt provides much needed comedy relief. Haley Bennet does a good job as the wronged widow who is tired of being scared.
“The Magnificent Seven” contains no original or groundbreaking filmmaking. It’s not as good as the original movie, or even “Unforgiven” or “Tombstone.” But it does make for some good light entertainment on a rainy day.
Rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language, and suggestive material.