By Jim Tortolano
I liked the new “The Magnificent Seven,” but not for the reasons that the filmmakers would appreciate. I enjoyed it because in the midst of dozens of homicides and explosions, it gave me reason to smile.
This remake of the 1960 classic recalls not just the Western clichés of that film, but of many made before or since. Remember when The Lone Ranger used to shoot the guns out of the hands of his foes? Denzel Washington’s Sam Chisolm does that in this flick. Remember when the near-silent Asian guy can’t get a drink in a bar, as in “Kung Fu?” It happens (off-screen) to Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun) here.
There are also echoes of “Blazing Saddles” with massive consumption of beans and the existential irony of a black man coming to rescue the white townsfolk besieged by a land-greedy bad guy. All that’s missing is an angry squinting woman as in “The Unforgiven.” No, wait, here’s Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen, the feisty redhead who spends a great deal of the movie bending over in a low-cut blouse.
One can’t deny what a pleasure it is to see Denzel in almost anything. I’m still waiting for sequel to his taciturn avenger in “The Equalizer.” But the fun in this film about good/bad guys to the rescue is, in, parts, just funny. A movie directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) is not supposed to be amusing.
In case you are one of the few unfamiliar with the concept, “The Magnificent Seven” is about the people of Rose Creek who hire a group of scruffy – but ultimately noble – gunmen to fight off several dozen really bad hombres who want to steal their land on behalf of slimy Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard).
Denzel/Sam rounds them up, puts some backbone into the locals and fights the good fight. Guess who wins? Guess who kills whom in the final scenes? Guess Denzel is a box office lure – and rightfully so – in spite of the weakness of this script and story.
Many of the supporting actors are one-dimensional trifles. Chris Pratt (“Thor”) is a joke-telling card sharp and pistoleer playing a role much better done by Mel Gibson in “Maverick.” The multi-cultural aspect of the cast – white, Native American, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. – adds a modern patina to the film without bringing any insights or context.
I never thought I’d write these words, but if you want to get a smile mixed with your mayhem, go see “The Magnificent Seven.” Lots of people get killed by a likable hero, and it’s got a great score at the end. Bloody land wars of the Old West were never so amusing.
“The Magnificent Seven” is rated PG-13 for violence and some language.
Categories: Arts & Leisure