Antoine Fuqua directs Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in this crowd pleasingly efficient update to the classic blockbuster Western.
Saloons go quiet when a stranger enters. Heroes emerge through the blurry desert haze. Horse riders are silhouettes on a hill top ride. Eyes before gunfights fill the entire screen. The Magnificent Seven has nothing new to add to the Western genre except the enthusiasm to remind you just how endearing it can be if done right. Don’t worry this doesn’t shit on the classic as feared, merely celebrates its strengths and updates the visuals and cast for a current crowd. Fuqua understands gorgeous landscapes, star power, comradery and staring down and standing tall against relentlessly unbeatable odds are what works here. So he mounts it all handsomely with an admirably straight enthusiasm (a career best for the often uninspired action director). Hell, it should really be called The Magnificent 9 if you keep track of how many heroes show true grit in the blistering 40 minute closing battle. And that battle is relentless, in a 12 rating kinda way. Bullet wounds are only shown from a safe distance, blood barely glimpsed but it’s a gripping massacre all the same. Mag 7 2.0’s casting works so well it is genuinely hard to pick a man of the match. Denzel grounds the whole thing with the most genre faithful turn. Chris Pratt has yet to see a script where he doesn’t feel a little 21st century Han Solo impression couldn’t just be perfect (him grinning like a schoolboy as he runs around banging his revolver’s hammer reveals a lovely abandon in the current megastar.) Ethan Hawke mines the most value from the most fully fleshed character but one that is easily the most charming too. And then there’s Vincent D’Onofrio’s strangely captivating turn that might win him an Oscar if the Academy is feeling particularly quirky this year. Saarsgard’s villian is something else too – super creepy and almost as if he is being filmed at a different frame rate in his languid reactions and sleepy threats. That’s a pretty packed roster of eye catching work and I still want to mention that Byung-Hun Lee and Haley Bennett probably haven’t hurt their Hollywood careers either. And Yee-haw, we even get Bernstein’s iconic score at the end to send us off back to reality on a high. I went twice this weekend.