Thursday, December 22, 2016
This latest version of The Magnificent Seven has everything. A neer-do-well gunslinger. An ex-confederate marksman with PTSD. An Asian knife-thrower. A native American bowman. A truly evil badman. A righteous widow who happens to be a sharpshooter. Some laughs. Some thrills. Everything. Except heart.
We're barely introduced to the good farmers of Rose Creek (a creek by any other name ...) than bad guy Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) arrives at their town meeting to deliver an ultimatum: take his pitiful offer to buy them off their land, or suffer the consequences. Of course, things get out of hand, a few innocent men are gunned down, and next thing you know, newly widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) is off on a mission to recruit some gunslingers.
As luck and lazy screenwriting would have it, she arrives in town just in time to cross paths with bad ass warrant officer — don't call him a bounty hunter — Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), whose ears prick up when he hears that Bogue is involved. Yeah, they must have history together, but you'll have to wait to the final minutes to learn what that is.
Next comes the expected light-hearted recruitment of six more magnificents to fill out that diverse slate of stereotypes. Even the most beguiling of them, the wise-cracking, neer-do-well gunslinger Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), is not so appealing that you worry about his fate. It doesn't matter that no one's motivation for signing up to fight a coupla hundred mercenaries is particularly believable. The filmmakers are just wearing down your believability threshold in preparation for the promised climactic shootout.
Everything that's wrong with this remake of The Magnificent Seven can be summed up by this early exchange (no spoiler; it's in the trailer):
Cullen: He made them murder my husband, he will take everything we have.
Sam Chisolm: So you seek revenge?
Cullen: I seek righteousness. But I'll take revenge.
So really, this movie is not making any attempt to suggest that even the good guys have some higher purpose. That sort of nuance takes too much energy. What little creativity is in evidence was spent choreographing an outlandish final battle. You will have no problem predicting who lives and who dies and, what's more, you won't care.