Posted by Jill Boniske aka Arty Chick on September 27, 2016
A remake of a remake has a lot to live up to. The original was the Japanese film Seven Samurai, shot in 1954, considered one of director Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces starring the legendary Toshiro Mifune. Fast forward six years and Hollywood makes a version substituting cowboys for Samurai, starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. Now we have another one with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard. All three films follow the same essential plot. A village is being preyed upon by outsiders, so they hire Samurai/Cowboys to defend them and mayhem ensues. So is the new one magnificent?
This time the villain is a greedy mine owner named Bogue (Sarsgaard) who has the town under his control and has decided to take the land and to hell with those poor souls who’ve made a home there. He and his henchmen kill a bunch of townspeople, burn down the church, and give everyone a deadline to vamoose. But there is one righteously aggrieved young widow Emma (Haley Bennett) who’s not going to be bullied. She recruits Chisolm (Denzel) a bounty hunter who is reticent until he hears who they’re taking down. Not that we know why, but clearly this is not the first time Bogue and Chislom have tangled. So then to fill out the team, there’s some wandering and serendipity. Chisolm finds gambler Josh Faraday (Pratt) in a bar. Blood-thirsty Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) is hiding out at one of Chisolm’s buddy’s houses. Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) shows up at their camp by magic and joins them. Good thing Chisolm speaks Comanche! Goodnight Robicheaux (Hawke) the famed Confederate sharpshooter is Chislom’s old friend and brings along his Chinese sidekick Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) who is simply astounding with his knife skills. And the final recruit is the very odd tracker Jack Horne (D’Inofrio) who resembles a bear and used to be an Indian killer. Together they attempt to teach the town how to fight and set up for the battle that is to come. And then it does.
Is it entertaining? Sure. Denzel can command a screen, no doubt. And Chris Pratt is always the fun smartass. But the rainbow coalition of fighters seems a bit far fetched, considering the Indian hunter is magically best buds with the Indian by the end. Ditto with the Mexican whose father fought at the Alamo against the Confederate sharpshooter’s father. As for the high-body-count battle, it does its job, keeping our underdog heroes busy. But the film at over two hours does drag at times and character development is entirely lacking. Also, and maybe it was only my theater or an artistic choice, but I always loved westerns for their beautiful cinematography and this was just plain flat. So does it live up to its predecessors? No. But is it worth seeing? Do you adore westerns, or Denzel, or Chris? Then yes. Or maybe rent the first two and wait for this one when you can stream it. (Both are available on Netflix DVD)