RELEASE DATE: 29/09/2016
RUN TIME: 2HR 13MIN
Based on Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film 'Seven Samurai' (the inspiration for the 1960 Western 'The Magnificent Seven'), 2016's film stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who’s best known for abandoning music-video direction for action films such as ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ and ‘Shooter’. His last film was 2015’s ‘Southpaw’, which was a diversion from his usual style. Here, he reunites with Denzel Washington for their third film together; the first, 'Training Day,' won Washington an Oscar for Best Actor.
The credentials of the major players are sound – Faqua directing Washington, Pratt, and Hawke is a bankable combo, and with an unrecognisable Vincent D’Onofrio leading an equally good supporting cast, the acting chops are top-notch. The writing doesn’t quite live up to the quality of the performers delivering it, with a few stalled lines here and there. However, this is more than compensated for by the outstanding production value. This film is the real deal. Westerns don’t get any more Western-y than this. There’s the damsel (who’s not really in distress, so much as harbouring a hankering for revenge), the one-horse town, and the remorseless, irredeemable bad guy.
Peter Sarsgaard (‘The Killing’) hams it up as Bartholomew Bogue, the land-stealing mining magnate slaughtering townspeople and running slaves. His first act on film is to burn a church and shoot a parishioner in the head. As a result, the Seven are recruited to run this sonovabitch outta town. What follows is a straightforward, good-versus-evil showdown with pistols and dynamite and sharp-shooters. A fair few of the major players bite the dust, but before they do, we get to see some proper Western-style stunts, a few decent laughs, and some incredible scenery. For a while, this film seems as though it’s simply Episode 1 in a much bigger plot as the recruitment of the Seven takes a significant part of the runtime, with the buildup to the climax rather truncated. Luckily, by the end of the film this seems less likely, as the story rounds out to capably stand on its own.
This film is the real deal. Westerns don’t get any more Western-y than this.
As far as remakes go, this is surely one of the better ones, and while it has its weak moments, the overall result is a strong tribute to both this film’s namesake and its excellent source material. Pratt and Washington are worth seeing on their own accord, but combined with Fuqua’s faithful Spaghetti direction and the outstanding supporting cast, this film will appeal to all those who enjoy a good Western.