By William Wolf


This remake of a remake, the opening night gala showing at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival prior to its commercial release, is an action-packed, shoot-em-up western starring charismatic Denzel Washington as the leader of a brave group trying to dispense justice for a frontier mining town. Japanese director Akira Kurosawa made the classic “Seven Samurai” (1954), which became a Hollywood remake into “The Magnificent Seven” in 1960, and now director Antoine Fuqua, working from a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, has taken a crack at making yet another version.

The incessant blazing of guns as the fight for justice unfolds, as well as the flaunting of guns by just about everyone as a macho statement, made me think of the problematic gun culture plaguing the United States these days. Sure, the film is make-believe, but it underscores the frontier, conquering nature of American history that partly explains the fascination with guns by generation after generation.

The plot involves a vicious exploiter, Bartholomew Bogue, played by an excessively sneering Peter Sarsgaard, trying to take over a mining town and ruthlessly killing anyone in his way. When the town folk have had enough they appeal to bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, played with enviable cool by Washington, to help rid them of their menace. It won’t be an easy task, given the manpower and firepower Bogue wields.

The counterforce assembled by Chisolm is an integrated mixture, including actors Chris Pratt, skilled with explosives, Ethan Hawke as an ex-soldier with a deadly aim, Lee Byung-hun, who can kill a man with a knife toss from a distance, as well as the other battle talents of characters depicted by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Lots of people are going to die before the town is freed from the villain’s clutches, and Fuqua piles on the action with expertise, while cinematographer Mauro Fiore captures a colorful looking environment.

There is nothing especially brilliant about this remake. It merely does the required action job with the appropriate heroics and sacrifices. However, there is one special twist that is pleasing. A woman is the ultimate hero. A brave woman of the town, Emma Cullen, appealingly portrayed with grit by Haley Bennett, not only enlists Chisolm in the fight, but—keep your eye upon her at the climax—rises to the occasion in the nick of time. And seeing Washington on a horse is not bad either. A Sony Pictures release. Reviewed September 23, 2016.


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