With remakes now such a staple of the Hollywood machine that some stories are ‘reimagined’ in under ten years, it seems strange that it has taken so long for one of the best-loved Westerns to get the treatment.
The reluctance to return to the original Magnificent Seven is perhaps because it is so well-regarded, and stands the test of time as a great telling of the Seven Samurai story. But the remake has landed, 56 years after Yul Brynner led his band of misfits into a Mexican village under siege to
The swinging saloon doors remain, as does the Man In Black striding through them. Sweeping vistas and brilliant shoot-outs are kept too, with many faithful nods to the original. The 2016 version layers contemporary relevance across the plot, incorporating corporate theft against which a woman leads the villagers – Haley Bennett excelling as vengeful widow Emma Cullen – and a marksman with post-traumatic stress disorder, Ethan Hawke playing the extravagantly named Goodnight Robicheaux.
Another welcome change is the inclusion of racially appropriate actors. Too often Hollywood employs white actors in non-white roles, but happily there is no ‘black-face’ moment here. Native American Red Harvest is played by native American Martin Sensmeier, and Korean Byung-hun Lee takes on the role of Billy Rocks, an Asian knife-thrower.
Denzel Washington brings gravitas and a curious upper lip to the role of Chisholm, but Chris Pratt looks a little miscast – he is too restrained by the occasionally mirthless script, when it looks like he really wants to cut lose as the gambler Josh Farady played by Steve McQueen in 1960.
Against the heroes stands arch-capitalist stands Bartholomew Bogue, brought to life in twitching villainy by Peter Sarsgaard, worth the price of admission alone.
Overall it’s a blast and well-worth of 2 hours and 13 minutes of your time – it’s well paced, with the lingering moments all Westerns needs, be it the click of a revolver’s hammer, or riding off into the sunset.
A solid 3.5 / 5 from Yalla.