Because “The Pretty Decent Seven” just wouldn’t fly
Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt
With a name and pedigree like “The Magnificent Seven”, the 2016 update of the 1960’s version (starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson which itself was an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” from 1954), had a lot to live up to. But it doesn’t quite deliver on its titular promise.
It’s still pretty entertaining, thanks to the cast. Denzel Washington plays Chisolm, the hero who assembles the Seven who right the wrongs dispensed upon a small western town by Peter Sarsgaard’s one-dimensional Bartholomew Bogue. Bogue’s capitalism-at-all-costs attitude is as deep as the writing gets in a popcorn movie filled with thin archetypes and relentless violence. The riveting opening scene cements Bogue as merciless, but his unflinching introduction means there’s quite a mood-swing when Chris Pratt’s Josh Faraday starts clowning his way through the old west.
Washington’s Chisolm gets a bit of backstory, but his fuller, final act explanation seems a little too much, too late. But at least his storyline gets some attention; the same can’t be said for most of the impressive cast. Backstories are minimal, and motivations are all but missing. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne is sure to be an audience favorite, while Ethan Hawke’s Goodnight Robicheaux is sure to frustrate – his storyline is an unsatisfying combination of slapdash and predictable.
The script also leaves some much-needed grounding out of an unlikely tale, one that smacks a bit of “Blazing Saddles” at times. The race and color of Chisolm and Martin Sensmeier’s Comanche (Red Harvest) fail to raise a single eyebrow amongst the locals. They also genuinely thank Chisolm for his help when the dust settles, even though his brilliant plan got most of the town killed and its buildings leveled. Thanks buddy! Why Chisolm doesn’t just travel surreptitiously to California and exact surprise revenge on an unsuspecting Bogue without endangering the townspeople is beyond me. Like Rick from The Walking Dead, his plan puts the target on notice, and the innocents in the crossfire.
But director Antoine Fuqua certainly knows how to stage an action sequence. The final assault on the small town is so unyielding in its intensity, it seems like it was part of another movie. Although still pretty entertaining, the shifting tone, unnecessarily overlong run time, and lack of backstories and/or motivations means his film is good, just not Magnificent.
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Writing Credits: Akira Kurosawa (based on the screenplay by) & Shinobu Hashimoto (based on the screenplay by) & Hideo Oguni (based on the screenplay by), Richard Wenk (screenplay), Nic Pizzolatto (screenplay)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer