Review: Sharp-shooting ‘Magnificent Seven’ hits target

Remake of the classic Western rides into town and gets the job done, even if it doesn’t leave lasting impression

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Magnificent” is pushing it, but “The Magnificent Seven” — the latest spin on the classic outlaw tale — comes in guns blazing, sweeps the town and gets the job done.

Maybe “The Efficient Seven” is a more fitting descriptor.

The Western genre continues to live on in modern tales such as “Hell or High Water,” but every few years Hollywood likes to play dress up with a full-on revival of the form, dust and saloons and all.

So here comes director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day” and a lot of films that didn’t live up to “Training Day”) with his retelling of 1960s “The Magnificent Seven,” which itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.”

Denzel Washington takes the lead as bounty hunter and impressively mustached Sam Chisolm, who assembles a group of fellow gunslingers to save the fictional town of Rose Creek, New Mexico. (The filming was split between New Mexico and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, surprisingly enough.)

Rose Creek is under the tyrannical rule of Bartholomew Bogue, played with a sleepy-eyed menace by Peter Sarsgaard. Sarsgaard is so effective in an opening scene — he basically plucks everyone in the town’s land out from underneath them — that it hardly matters that he doesn’t appear on screen again until the 80-minute mark. He’s that imposing.

Fuqua, working from a suitable script by Richard Wenk and “True Detective’s” Nic Pizzolatto, spends that time building the Seven. Chief among them are Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), a hotshot gambler with a special taste for explosives, and Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a sharpshooter who’s confidence is shaken by an incident in his past and is easily the best-named character of the year.

Beyond the core trio, the interest level dips off significantly: Rounding out the bunch is Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne, Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s Vasquez and Martin Sensmeier’s Red Harvest. None are looking at their own spinoff movies anytime soon, although D’Onofrio does manage to amuse at least himself by putting on a wheezing, whacked-out accent.

More interesting is Haley Bennett’s Emma Cullen, a resident of Rose Creek who hires the Seven to take on Bogue and help save the town. Bennett, who made an impression in “Music in Lyrics” in 2007 and then slipped out of view, is a captivating presence, and with “The Girl on the Train” and Warren Beatty’s “Rules Don’t Apply” in the pipeline, is quickly becoming a big deal.

Nothing in “The Magnificent Seven” feels like much of a big deal, but like a good marksman, it hits its targets. Pratt provides humor and charm, Hawke’s character has a nice arc as he learns to get his shot back, and Washington is the noble hero you’d expect him to be.

The film has a keen eye for detail, especially in the sweat that permeates the foreheads of the town’s residents (remember, they didn’t have air conditioning back then, kids), although the cast’s pearly whites are more Hollywood fantasy than Old West reality.

But there’s never a question that you’re watching a movie during “The Magnificent Seven,” and that’s fine. It’s a big screen Hollywood Western and it covers all the bases, and will tide you over until Hollywood decides to make another big Western a few years down the line. Giddy up.

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Twitter: @grahamorama

‘The Magnificent Seven’


Rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material

Running time: 133 minutes