With the Editor wondering why he’s never seen The Magnificent 1 – 6 we have yet another remake and like the recent Ben Hur it’s another remake of a remake which in this case is the Yul Brynner classic western of the Japanese epic ‘The Seven Samurai’. But instead of the charismatic slap head that was Yul Brynner we have Denzel Washington as a warrant officer collecting wanted villains and showing himself to be a mean gunslinger and in the process finds himself approached by a recently widowed villager who implores him to help protect her village against a violently avaricious business man played by Peter Sasrgaard. And so in time honoured fashion he gathers together a band of brothers with much being made of the ethnically diverse crew that he rounds up which includes an oriental knife expert, a Native American and a Mexican with director Antoine Fuqua defending his cast saying this was how the West actually was (see our article in the features section). It’s a decent cast too with Denzel surprisingly being one of the weaker members and not commanding the screen as you might expect. In fairness few of the others really stand out either and it seems that only Marvel with their ensemble Avengers cast really get the script balance right with each getting their own moment. Instead we get Chris Pratt reprising his cocky yet charming persona last seen in ‘Jurassic World’, and before that ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and before that just about every film he’s been in to date. Vincent D’Onofrio, an actor we see too little of, also provides a great turn whether it be in Full Metal Jacket or Men in Black here plays a burly gunman with a bizarrely high pitched voice, and Ethan Hawke in an underwritten role as a legendary sharpshooter shell shocked by civil war. The last time Fuqua teamed up with Washington and Hawke was in the Oscar winning ‘Training Day’ along whose gong winning path this is unlikely to follow.
Scripted by Richard Wenk , a name that you have to type with care and pronounce even more carefully, has written other action films including ‘The Equalizer’, ‘The Expendables 2’ and the under rated ‘The Mechanic’ but along with his co writer Nic Pizzolatto (this is his first feature film screenplay) they have just used the standard tropes and this is formulaic (the good comanche and the bad guy comanche inevitably have their own mano a mano fight at the end, Hawke’s reticence at firing his gun is overcome at a crucial moment, etc etc) and there is as much stabbing and slashing with knives and hatchets as there is gunplay though there are hints of some of Clint Eastwoods 70’s westerns that emerge every so often which is no bad thing. It also turns out that Washington’s character’s reason for taking on the job is not as altruistic as it seems which ultimately makes him a little less sympathetic
The remake veers little from the well known 1960 version with only the violence really being ramped up and inevitably it all climaxes in a final battle terrifically orchestrated by Fuqua which feels a little like Sam Peckinpah’s ‘The Wild Bunch’ with its body count rapidly escalating. But despite the nicely shot landscapes if there’s one thing it really shouldn’t have left out it’s the iconic music which is cast aside for a vanilla soundtrack with the signature theme tune only appearing over the credits. Washington is always watchable but for the first time he is oddly muted in this and is far from magnificent. If nothing else it adds a spin to that old pub quiz classic: Can you name the Magnificent 7?
Here’s the trailer: