Reclaiming the West

The Magnificent Seven

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Director:  Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Martin Sensmeier, Cam Gigandet

Antoine Fuqua gathers his favourite actors into his latest impressive film.

In Fuqua’s bespoke remake of John Sturgeon’s 1960 classic film The Magnificent Seven, as an African American film director he reclaims the Western genre in a bold step towards reimagining American Western mythology which will surely shape how cinema goers view the Western film genre.

Gone are the days of Western films primarily being made up of morally dubious cowboys mostly played by dashing European actors fighting savage Red Indians or each other in high noon stand offs.

Director Fuqua’s superb The Magnificent Seven is as diverse as Westerns come, showing that while perceptions of the American West have largely been Eurocentric, the real history of the American West was far more complex.

The setting is Rose Creek, California in 1879. A small dusty town a three day ride away from the Californian state capital Sacramento, at the height of the Gold Rush.

Rose Creek is being tormented by a malicious industrialist Bartholomew Bogue wonderfully played against type by character actor Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine), who not only burns down the moral centre of the town, the church, but casually kills some its town folk, much to the horror of the remaining witnesses.

Rose Creek’s town representative, a feisty widow Emma Cullen, played by rising star Haley Bennett enlists the help of sharp shooter Chisolm, expertly played by Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Training Day, Glory).

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Chisolm gathers a motley crew of cowboys and one red Indian, consisting of the heavy drinking Irishman Josh Faraday, comically played by Chris Pratt, sharp shooter Goodnight Robicheaux played by Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Before Sunrise), lonesome tracker Jack Horne played by Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Rocks played by Korean star Byung-hun Lee, Vasquez, played by rising Mexican star Manual Garcia-Rulfo last seen in Cake opposite Jennifer Aniston and finally Native American actor Martin Sensmeier who plays Comanche Indian Red Harvest.

With the gang in tow and the town folk galvanized for action, audiences should expect the final gun battle of Rose creek to be thrilling. Fortunately this is where The Magnificent Seven delivers as the final act of the film is truly brilliant, with superb sound editing and haunting production design, Fuqua pays homage to the original version and to the genre as a whole while deftly reimagining Westerns as a more diverse and multi-cultural affair.

Not since the Coen brothers reworking of the Oscar nominated True Grit, have I enjoyed a Western as much. The Magnificent Seven does justice to its genre assisted by superb performances by Washington and Sarsgaard as opponents with a vicious score to settle.

Audiences that enjoyed James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers True Grit, will love Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven as he reclaims the Western genre and hopefully opens the doors for this much loved film genre to be bravely re-explored in the 21st century. This is a genre which desperately needs a Hollywood resurgence.

Now if only a director could tackle a film version of Cormac McCarthy’s brutal tale of the Mexican frontier wars in his gripping Western novel, Blood Meridian, then that would be a film worth seeing.

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