22 September 2016 | ctowyi
Not quite the rising sun for the begotten genre but still a good entertainer
This multi-racial and ethnic cast may seem appropriate in these contemporary times but it is still a pale shadow compared to John Sturges' 1960 remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954). Not that it sucked though... it just made me reminisce so fondly the motley crew led by Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. Dammit... I can hear Elmer Bernstein's iconic theme soaring in my head now.
The story is the same - a town is under siege by a corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The desperate townspeople employ the protection of Bob Chisolm (Denzel Washington) who then rounds up his crew of six - gambler magic-slicker Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a sharpshooter has-been Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), and his knife extraordinaire sidekick Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-Hun). Rounding out the rest of the titular seven are a Mexican outlaw named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Native American named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and a mountain-man called Kingpin... Opps sorry, Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio). Not all of the seven will survive, but the town will be saved from the evil clutches.
How I wish I could say this is one rollicking, surprise-laden, potboiling action thriller, but I just can't in all honesty. I think it is because I grew up watching Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven (1960), and these movies occupy a cozy room in my heart. I find myself just not magnanimous enough to being fair to Antoine Fuqua's remake. In all fairness, it is indeed a huge summer tentpole movie with the fun quotient dialled up and the action set-pieces revved up to the max. But IMHO the characters feel under-written and the camaraderie feels perfunctory. It is not that I need a backstory for everyone but a clever writer will make you identify with just one cool trait of each character and run with it. If you think back to John Sturges' film and I ring out all the actors' name, you can definitely see and feel that character in your head. When these characters eat lead, a lump forms in your throat. But I didn't feel any lumps here. I don't know... I think it is a tall order for me to displace the classic seven and align with everyone in this new seven. But I must say having Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt onboard is just awesome.
Fuqua excels in the action set-pieces, especially in the drawn-out final shootout. Every tenet of the genre can be seen here and a gleeful smile crept up on my face as one shot will floor a bad guy and yet another one drops down from the roof. My heart will whimsically shout out a yeah when yet another faceless slimeball gets flung down from his horse. That said, this new seven just couldn't touch the legacy of its more illustrious predecessors, let alone displace them. Even the music score by the late James Horner barely registered more than a blip in my consciousness. This, I am afraid, is hardly the Rising Sun for the begotten Western genre. No doubt, it is quite an entertainer though. Just don't expect anything more than that and you will be fine.