By Sandra Kraisirideja
The Magnificent Seven hits all the standard marks for a well-done Western.
If there is any flaw it would be that director Antoine Fuqua plays it incredibly safe and there isn’t anything about the movie that made me think it was an “Antoine Fuqua” picture.
Of course this is the kind of criticism that only critics make. It’s not enough for a talented, competent director like Fuqua to make a good, solid genre picture. He’s expected to do something that shakes things up and brings a fresh perspective.
Fuqua certainly shook things up with casting and the change is wonderful. The 1960 original, directed by John Sturges, featured all-white leads Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach and Charles Bronson.
Fuqua’s update is a truer reflection of our current population. This time Denzel Washington leads a cast that also includes Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier, who is a descendant of the Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan tribes. In other words, an actor who is actually Native American was hired to play a Native American.
Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio round out the magnificent seven of the movie’s title.
This time the men are hired by a woman (a steely-eyed Haley Bennett) who wants to avenge the murder of her husband at the hands of a ruthless gold baron played with wicked delight by Peter Sarsgaard, who needs to play bad guys more often.
The movie wouldn’t work as well if Sarsgaard didn’t fully embrace his role as a cold-blooded killer. Part of the appeal of the Western genre is the lack of ambiguity when it comes to good versus evil. Even though the world was harsher and less forgiving in the frontier days, there is a nostalgia for that period. Life seemed simpler back then.
The movie opens with the expected Western motif of grand open vistas and desert landscapes. Cinematographer Mauro Fiore, who worked with Fuqua on Training Day, is quite competent in the genre and really uses the camera to shape the personalities of the characters.
There is more to like with The Magnificent Seven than to complain about. The actors do not disappoint and it is great to see Washington and Hawke reunited again. If you have the urge to see Training Day it’s available on iTunes to rent for just 99 cents.
While it will cost quite a bit more to see The Magnificent Seven in a theater it’s worth the cost of a ticket.