Director Antoine Fuqua reunites his ‘Training Day’ co-stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in his contemporary update of John Sturges’ 1960 western based on Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai.’ This timeless story of a few good men defending the weak from the predations of bad guys (standing up to bullies) never gets old and Fuqua, a veteran of the action movie genre with such gritty R-rated flicks as ‘The Equalizer,’ ‘Tears of the Sun,’ ‘Shooter’ and ‘Olympus has Fallen,’ is an accomplished director uniquely qualified to tackle the remake of the beloved classic which boasted Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn among its ensemble cast.
While the setting and dramatis personae are different, the tale is the same. The American mining town of Rose Creek, Minnesota is beset and terrorized by an evil capitalist with the dastardly name of Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his army of henchmen, who gave the poor homesteaders the ultimatum to get out of town or else. After losing her brave but foolhardy husband when he resisted, frontierwoman Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) appeals to renowned Wichita, Kansas bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) for aid, who agrees to help and begins assembling his seven-man army. And what a ragtag and colorful bunch it turned out to be. Criticism has been leveled at the group's composition for its racial stereotypes and being too PC, since it not only includes a black man garbed in black but also a Mexican bandito (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a redskin brave from the Commanche tribe (Martin Sensmeier) and – I kid you not – a yellow man from the east (Byung hun-Lee) who goes by the all-too-white moniker of Billy Rocks. Rounding out the group in the minority are three white men: Ethan Hawke’s tortured ex-Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux, Chris Pratt’s easygoing hustler/gambler Josh Faraday and the Davy Crokett-like almighty-fearing mountain man/trapper Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio). It’s a transgression I am happy to overlook because watching these eclectic characters with their unique personalities, fighting styles and weapons of choice is a helluva lot more interesting than watching a bunch of white guys playing cowboy, historical likelihood be damned.
Although Fuqua dialed down the graphic violence a bit to attain the movie’s PG-13 rating, there is no shortage of bang-bang western action once the shooting starts and the fun begins. Fuqua has a great eye for action and proves here once again why he’s one of Hollywood’s most surefire directors of action movies today. Packed with heroism, villainy and sacrifice, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ stands on its own well even when compared to the 1960 original, I daresay.