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The Magnificent Seven




The Magnificent Seven (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

09/29/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Denzel Washington gets to ride a horse, give an opponent a steely gaze before a shootout and wear some mighty fine cowboy duds in The Magnificent Seven, a pretty solid movie about guys on horses shooting stuff, if all you want is guys on horses shooting stuff.

Sam Chisolm (Washington) is a duly authorized something-or-other by states and territories all across the West who collects bounties for bringing in/dispatching with wanted criminals. Basically, he has license to shoot people and is good at it. At one such exercise of frontier justice, he catches the eye of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a very recently widowed farmer who has ridden into town to look for help for her community.
Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is mining for gold near the town of Rose Creek. He would like to mine out of existence the entire town and to that end has offered the townsfolk to buy their land for less than half its worth and to not kill them as they skedaddle, though don’t hold him to that last part. To clarify how uninterested he is in negotiation, he shoots a few people who start to object at a town meeting — including Emma’s husband — and then burns the church, telling everyone he’ll be back in three weeks for their signed deeds.
Emma and some of the townspeople decide to make their stand and to that end she offers Sam a none-too-large bag that contains “everything we have” as she tells him. For reasons that we can guess but aren’t fully explained for a while, Sam decides to join her fight and rounds up, with her help, a few extra hands. There’s Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), good at gunfighting, close magic and smart-alec-ery. Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) is a Confederate veteran of the decades-earlier Civil War, a good sniper and an old friend of Sam’s. Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) is a friend of Goodnight’s and a martial arts expert. Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) is some kind of criminal Sam agrees not to pursue if he fights with him. Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) is a veteran of even longer ago skirmishes with the Native Americans. Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) is a Comanche the group meets on its way to Rose Creek who decides to join them.
As these things often go, Chisolm and friends show up to town and take care of all but one of the men Bogue left to watch the place. But that one gets away and Sam predicts they have about three days to prepare for the hired army Bogue will bring with him to end the insurrection.
Do you want to watch the above-named actors wearing cowboy clothes, riding horses and getting in gun fights? If yes, this is your movie. If you answered something like “that sounds all right but I would also like some deeper meaning about the nature of westward expansion and the-” then let me stop you right there because this is not your movie. If you wish Westerns had less shooting this is not your movie. If you want to see expanded recognition of women’s roles on the frontier, this is not your movie even if Emma proves herself to be pretty awesome at both grit and shooting. If you want to be able to dig into a movie and find something more than an inch of dusty red soil and dialogue that, in spirit if not in fact, feels like it always contains the words “I reckon,” then this is not your movie.
The Magnificent Seven is about a group of wisecrackers on the edge (sometimes over the edge) of respectability who crack wise, are quick on the draw and look believable in their Western gear. And that’s pretty much it. I guess you could pretend that it has something to say about standing up for what’s right even if it appears to be a lost cause, but I’m not sure that holds up under close examination and anyway who cares. Cowboys! On horses! Having gunfights! You’re either in or you aren’t.
I, to clarify, am definitely in. The Magnificent Seven is great fun. It occupies roughly the same space as Washington’s Unstoppable — sure, it’s not going to win any of your major storytelling Oscars, but you will totally watch it whenever you happen to flip past it during its inevitable many airings on first premium and later basic cable. You don’t have to have seen the original The Magnificent Seven or Seven Samurai (I am 0 for 2) to know pretty much exactly how this is going to go, but that doesn’t make the horse-trod road there any much less fun.
Of the big-name actors, this is an easy day at work for Washington and for Pratt too, who is basically doing a laid back version of his Guardians of the Galaxy character. Ethan Hawke isn’t too bad, bringing just enough character depth to make it look like he’s not just kicking back. D’Onofrio seems to be having fun with the character he’s created, adding what feels like a very D’Onofrio bit of weirdness. And Sarsgaard is a perfectly fine one-dimensional villain whom we don’t have to empathize with or care about in any way, leaving us free to cheer for his demise.
Really, could you ask for better from a thoroughly satisfying, completely delightful, lightweight bit of entertainment? B
Rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material. Directed by Antoine Fuqua with a screenplay by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto, The Magnificent Seven is two hours and 12 minutes long and distributed by MGM and Columbia Pictures. 





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