I went to the movies at the local multiplex this morning to make the 10:00 showing of the latest version of The Magnificent Seven.
Okay, I know you may have read or heard some reviews of this remake which were mediocre at best. But you know me. I'm never about tearing down any one's creation. As a classical singer, an actor, a theatrical director, a voice-over artist, and a dancer (in my youth) as well as an author now, I appreciate just how hard everyone has to work to bring together a creation. The result may not be Shakespeare, but if it entertains, it serves it's purpose.
That being said I enjoyed this version, even though the original 1960s film is one of my all-time favorite westerns, right up there with My Darling Clementine, High Noon, and The Gunfight at the OK Corral. I'm not talking Lonesome Dove here...the saga of Texas remains first in my yellow rose Longhorn-loving heart.
This new version of The Magnificent Seven, like the first one, is based on the story lines of Kurosawa's masterpiece The Seven Samurai.
This version has a much more diverse cast than either of its predecessors. The main cast list is as follows:
Denzel Washington as Chisolm - licensed bounty hunter and law enforcement officer
Chris Pratt as Faraday - a card playing gunslinger/lover boy with very fast hands
Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux - the greatest sniper for the Confederacy, a legend
Vincent D'Onofrio as Jack Horne - a mountain of a man who is as efficient at killing as Bible quotations
Byung Hun Lee as Billy Rocks - an Asian adept at knives as well as guns (you may remember him as the master assassin in Red 2)
Martin Sensmeier as a Comanche named Red Harvest. (more about him in a bit.)
Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen - the young woman who hires the seven & in this one participates in the final battle
Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue - the wealthy villain of the piece
The cast makes a tight ensemble who work seamlessly together. Each individual fits in so well, they work as a cohesive unit.
The story in brief - A small town in the mountains of California has been overtaken by a robber baron who took over because of the gold in the surrounding mountains. He has built a mine and is reaping profits. Finally, he decides he wants the townsfolk gone. He and his men interrupt a church service. Surrounded by hired bad guys with guns, knives, etc. The town's citizens are mostly cowed. A few stand up to Bogue and are killed in cold blood for their defense of their rights. One of the victim's is Ellen Cullen's husband. The town was there first. Later upon witnessing Chisolm killing a wanted man in the saloon, Ellen Cullen comes to him and asks him to save their little town. He's not interested until she tells him the real villain's name. Chisolm, who has history with Bogue, decides to help her. With Ellen and her brother in tow, they go out and recruit "the seven." Quite a tale in itself.
The actors portraying members of "the seven" do an excellent job creating their roles. You really root for them. Alas, as in the original script all but three of them are killed in the cataclysmic climax. So all is not happy in the end. Considering the size of the force attacking them, it's amazing any of them survive.
Vincent D'Onofrio, a favorite actor of mine - a method actor, who disappears into his roles, was a standout as a bear of a man.
Also newcomer Martin Sensmeier was a revelation. Descended from Alaskan and Northwestern Native Americans and Irish forefathers, he has a body like a Navy SEAL. In real life he is an advocate for fitness for young people of Native American heritage, as well as an ambassador for Boys and Girls Clubs of the USA. I heard the director interviewed on NPR yesterday. He said when he interviewed Sensmeier for the role of Red Harvest, the actor had long hair. But when he was cast he had cut his hair short. So the director looked up info on the Comanche people (the character he portrayed) and found the men sometimes wore a Mohawk style. So they shaved his head leaving the hair in a shortened version of the famous Mohawk. With his face painted fierce red, black, and white, he was a frightening spectacle, but an honorable man. Also, he was shirtless for the entire film...just sayin' girls.
The worst part of this film was the absurd number of horses thrown, flipped, or made to fall over in this one. Sigh...I don't approve, even if it's realistic, I'm an animal rights' advocate. I looked away from those scenes.
But other than that, this was a fast-moving entertaining film. The only thing missing for me was the incredible theme of the 1960s version. Well guess what? That's the cover music for the end credits. As we Texans are known to say AWWWWWW RIIIIIGHT!!!
If you are fond of the original film, you'll enjoy this one...be prepared to weep for some of the lost heroes.
Until next time...