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Film review: The Magnificent Seven

Film & TV

It’s been a while since we’ve had a western grace the big screen, so the time is probably right for Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven.

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The cast boasts a hoard of Hollywood heavyweights, including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke. Also along for the ride are Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgaard.

The plot is simple: a frontier town in 1879 is besieged by a land-hungry, corrupt industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard). When the townsfolk resist his attempts to kick them out of their homes, he resorts to violence and murder, backed by his private army of hired guns.

Desperate to keep her town and avenge her husband, Emma Cullen (Bennett) goes in search of a hired gun of her own and finds Sam Chisolm (Washington), who has a grudge against Bogue. Chisolm assembles a rag-tag bunch of misfits and outlaws, all especially talented with guns and other weapons, who are willing to defend the town of Rose Creek.

Given the large cast and the limited screen time available for individual characters to build audience rapport, the writers and actors have don a stand-out job of individualising each of the “magnificent seven”.

Washington is great as the calm, professional and principled leader who is paired for most of the time with Josh Faraday (Pratt) — a drunken Irish joker whose quick-as-lightning gun skills, wit and larrikin nature make him the most lovable of the pack. The two are fine foils, as are other members of the pack, including Goodnight (Hawke), who’s not quite the legend he once was; Billy (Hun-Lee), who can kill a man at 50 paces with a hairpin, and Jack Horne (D’Onofrio), who’s “found God” and sprouts scripture as he kills.

The majority of the movie is a build towards the inevitable showdown between Bogue and his seemingly undefeatable army versus the magnificent seven and their cast of lousy-shot farmers. While there is certainly a high element of predictability in so far as this story arc goes, the enjoyment comes from seeing the ingenuity of the seven and how they plan to bring down an army so that the decent folk of Rose Creek can have their town back.

There’s also a good balance between character development and the inevitable camaraderie of the seven and the townsfolk they’re defending, alongside some pretty spectacular fight scenes.

The Magnificent Seven is a simple western story that’s not pretending to be anything else. There’s some gob-smacking gun shooting, sensational special effects and loveable characters. An enjoyable glimpse into America’s Wild West and a fun night out.

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