The Bock’s Office: ‘Magnificent Seven’ a mediocre update that misses the point | SteamboatToday.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Magnificent Seven’ a mediocre update that misses the point

Andy Bockelman

The title group (Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier) moseys into town in "The Magnificent Seven." The movie is a remake of the Western about a variety of personalities who come together to save a threatened populace.

The way the past is remembered is usually through rose-colored glasses, but as "The Magnificent Seven" shows, even when you're trying to keep your sights facing forward, you're bound to trip up by repeatedly glancing over your shoulder.

If you go…

"The Magnificent Seven," rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 133 minutes

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

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In 1879, the peaceful Western settlement of Rose Creek is under attack by gold mine owner Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a crooked businessman willing to lay waste to any town or individuals that stand in his way.

As a pair of residents (Haley Bennett, Luke Grimes) seek out someone to defend their home, they find Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a Kansas warrant officer, whom they beg to round up all the assistance he can find for their cause.

With little time to prepare, Sam is able to recruit six more hearty souls: saloon gambler Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt); Civil War legend Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his knife-wielding associate Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee); Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a "Texican" bandit on the run from the law; seasoned frontiersman Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio); and a lone warrior of the Comanche tribe named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

While the group sets to training the put-upon town and its people with their variety of experience and skills, Bogue is in the process of amassing an army of men to wipe Rose Creek off the map altogether.

Ever the natural leader onscreen, cowboy novice Washington stands as a capable replacement for Yul Brynner, recast as a stalwart lawman whose motivation for a thankless, deadly act of altruism is his own. Sam may be more ethically driven than most of his cohorts, but that doesn't make him any less of a threat on the quick draw.

Pratt's roustabout attitude as Faraday, the equivalent of the original's Steve McQueen, provides most of the comic relief as the dude who can disarm and incapacitate with a simple card trick. As you'd expect, he's a bit of a flirt, too, offering unreciprocated comfort to Bennett as a new widow whose husband (Matt Bomer) was personally gunned down by Bogue, Sarsgaard hitting all the necessary notes as a cliché robber baron, a scoundrel, a blackguard, you know, all the 19th century synonyms for villainy you could want.

As the Confederacy's leading Cajun sharpshooter, Hawke is convincing, if not that intriguing as the reluctant Robicheaux, who for whatever reason, pals around with an Asian import to the Old West who's as deadly with a hairpin as he is a six-shooter or a blade.

D'Onofrio is positively ursine as bear-man Horne, whose soft-spoken, pious personality belies a vicious hand-to-hand combatant, while Garcia-Rulfo and Sensmeier are… well, numbers six and seven, as good a description as possible for the two characters who stand out the most yet simply get lost in the shuffle.

The remake of the 1960 classic, in itself an Americanized "Seven Samurai," has a good deal of wishful thinking in its depiction of the Wild West. Kudos to Antoine Fuqua for casting a more diverse group rather than seven different shades of white — Even 50-some years ago, did anyone buy Charles Bronson or Eli Wallach as having Mexican heritage? — but there's a certain colorblindness that renders it unrealistic.

Are we really to believe that the worst thing said to a black man taking charge of a town in the 1870s is someone calling him "boy" under their breath? Maybe the folks of Rose Creek are just ultra-enlightened, but there's a happy medium between the racial epithet-laced dialogue of "Django Unchained" and pretending the time period is more accepting than it was, making a missed opportunity for something more than a popcorn movie in the screenplay by Nik Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk.

Speaking of which, how did they rewrite the original story and still come up with a plot that follows every old chestnut of the Western genre? More graphic shootouts aren't much of an improvement when you know exactly how things will end.

All you need to do is hear the music by Simon Franglen and the late James Horner that sort of halfheartedly recreates the sweeping score by Elmer Bernstein to know that "The Magnificent Seven" is merely an imitation and a self-congratulatory one at that. The septet of stars is game, it's well-shot cinematically and the aim is admirable, but come on, Hollywood: in an era when the Western needs all the help it can get to stay relevant, let's see some real innovation rather than relying on nostalgia.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

If you go…

“The Magnificent Seven,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 133 minutes

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.