Posted Sep 23 2016
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The Magnificent Seven - This Movie Rocks Solidly, If Not Magnificently

Dir: Antoine Fuqua

Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeir, Peter Sarsgaard, Haley Bennett

The word “proper” crops up in the last scene of this movie. And in many ways it’s right that it does, because Antoine Fuqua really wants to make a “proper” western. And to his credit he does a pretty good job. Yes, his imagery, his tropes, his atmosphere are all lifted from better movies. Sometimes it even verges cloe to parody, more than homage – black man Denzel riding into town is dangerously close to Blazing Saddles territory (you almost expect an old woman to walk out into the street and exclaim "Up yours nigger!") But for the most part his aim is true and he sticks to his guns (OK, last of the cheap ones), never forsaking the tone of his film to do something crass, like drop in a contemporary hip hop track or anything equally inappropriate. Instead, he lets grown men play cowboys and they do play it well.

This is as much as anything a really well cast movie. Denzel is cool as all hell – just as you’d expect. Pratt does both cool and effortlessly funny – plus gets his deserved blaze of glory moment. Ethan Hawke continues to relish what could well be termed his ‘golden period,’ impressing consistently with every film he makes these days. And as for D’Onofrio – he more than proves that his Kingpin was not a fluke but a full return to form. Of the lesser-name cast, Haley Bennett (soon to be seen in Girl On The Train) is superb, and Sarsgaard is a supremely detestable dark hat.

Tightly edited – but never over-edited – Fuqua’s film handles both its character moments (and everyone gets their moment, which is both balanced and admirable) and its action sequences with serious aplomb. A mid-movie shoot-out is terrific, but the filmmaker upstages even this with the protracted final battle, which is frantic but never loses track of who you need to be focused on and following.

It’s not a classic western – but it clearly has watched many of them. What this remake is is an accomplished genre film. It may not lead, but it holds its own.

Which brings us at last, but certainly not least, to the music. The late James Horner’s final score constantly teases us with hints of Elmer Bernstein’s original, classic theme, both rhythmically and melodically. If it didn’t kick in at some point (a huge mistake Guy Ritchie made with his U.N.C.L.E. opus) we’d have been yelling at the screen by the end titles. But it does. And it’s as close to magnificent as this film ever gets. Even though it’s pretty good the rest of the time.

 

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