I seek righteousness. But I'll take revenge.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgard. Music is by Simon Franglen (also working from a James Horner template) and cinematography by Mauro Fiore.
Seven gunmen band together to aid the town of Rose Creek whose inhabitants are being driven out by ruthless capitalist Bartholomew Bogue.
We are now in an age of film making where "tagged classics" are no longer sacrosanct. Any number of these "tagged classics" have been and will become viable for remake - reboot - reimaging for newer audiences. It's here, it happens and really there's nothing we can do about it but moan amongst ourselves. John Sturges' 1960 The Magnificent Seven (itself a remake of Kurosawa pic Yojimbo) is a much loved film, and not just in Western lovers circles, it's a film that non Western fans are known to enjoy - and rightly so, it deserves its place as a "tagged classic" and still enthrals over 50 years since its release. So the big studio big wigs and Antoine Fuqua were taking a major gamble remaking a classic remake with their own remake!
Undeniably the shadows loom large over the 2016 version, so much weight of expectation, in fact to some it was a stinker of a film even before it was released! Well, as those who have seen it will attest, both the fans and the dissenters, it hasn't raised the bar for the "Seven" formula, but, and this is very key here, the makers wasn't setting out to make a film that down the line would be perceived as a "tagged classic", and this is evident in the ream of extras available on the Blu-ray releases. They achieved what they set out to do, to make a blunderbuss Oater for the modern era to sample, and they have done it with much love, much cool and lashings of technical greatness. Add in a cast clearly enjoying themselves and not letting anyone down, and it's a tasty plate of beans.
Fuqua updates things by having his seven as a row of differing ethnicities, which works a treat, and crucially he and his writers are respectful of those characterisations, even if a bit more fleshing out wouldn't have gone amiss. Yet nothing is at a cost to honouring the great Westerns of old. Beautiful landscapes envelope the players, the musical score bouncing around man and nature with homaged sweetness. There's closeups, silhouetted slices of panache, superb stunt work (man and beast), glorious set design, and then there's the action. The fight sequences are excellently constructed, a feast for the eyes and ears, death and slaughter unfurled in brutal but hunger appeasing strokes. There's comic relief about the place, and while much of the dialogue wouldn't have the great poets of yore troubled, there is deepness to be found. Intelligence, too, the addition of PTSD to one of the main players is a notable piece of worth, while how wonderful to find a Western lady character of great substance (Bennett excellent), so good in fact she could have been one of the seven!
It's a bare bones story, with a pointless motive revelation tagged on for the finale, while some anachronisms will irritate those bothered by such. But if you are able to judge it on its own terms, as a Western entertainment for this era, and to accept it isn't trying to outdo the source of its inspiration, then a good time can readily be had. 8/10