The last forty-minutes of Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven are the best forty-minutes I’ve seen in any summer blockbuster this year. We’re in the small town of Rose Creek, where Denzel Washington’s Sam Chisholm and his six hired gunslingers are rallying around the townsfolk while, on the horizon, an army of hired guns led by Bartholomew Bogue prepare to attack. What follows is a bullet-riddled finale which eclipses any CGI-tastic, superhero bust-up that we’ve seen this year; one that has explosions, knife fights and, of course, a traditional Western showdown.
It’s an ending which is given more heft through the use of practical effects and what feel like very real high stakes. The heroes and villains in this aren’t bulletproof, in fact they are far from it. In this Western, good guys are mowed down in a barrage of bullets, you bleed when you’re shot and aren’t miraculously rising from the grave if you’re killed.
Watching the tremendously thrilling and entertaining finale, Fuqua’s take on the story feels as tough as the Old West itself. Unafraid of pushing the boundaries of 12a violence, people are brutally stabbed, shot and strangled without a moments hesitation. It’s in the violence that the director finds an edge to what is an already moody remake – especially when compared to the 1960 version – and it’s in these action sequences where the film works best of all.
Outside of the finale and other brief flashes of gunfire, it’s a shame that The Magnificent Seven is mostly just ‘The Okay-ish Seven’. As Washington’s Chisholm travels the expansive Western landscape – efficiently shot by Mauro Fiore – in search of fighters who can help him defend Rose Creek, the narrative is in much need of a pick-me-up and takes itself far too seriously during what should have been one of the film’s most entertaining acts.
The performances themselves are terrific, with each actor bringing some kind of distinctive quality to their character – whether that be Vincent D’Onofrio’s high-pitched Jack Horne, or Chris Pratt’s slightly ambiguous Josh Faraday. It’s the writing that lets them down, as well as tone that can never really decide whether it’s being light-hearted or deeply serious.
As much as I like Antoine Fuqua as a director and as much I love the cast – Ethan Hawke steals the show for me – the film is nowhere near good enough to be anything more than throwaway fun. However, at a time where blockbuster cinema seems reserved for the likes of giant robots and superheroes, The Magnificent Seven is still a most welcomed trip to the cinema; one which, providing you make it through the drudgery of the film’s first half, has an extended set piece which is well worth the price of admission in itself.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com