The baddies led by the ruthless land grabbing Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) want to take over the mines of the peaceful western settlement of Rose Creek. They demand impossible terms and when some of the townsfolk try to resist they are killed in cold blood. The remainder are intimidated until, in desperation, a plucky young widow played by Hayley Bennett enlists the help of a lone black bounty hunter, Sam Chisolm (Denzil Washington). He assembles a rag tag group of renegades and outsiders and they proceed to galvanise the remaining inhabitants to prepare themselves for the coming onslaught.
And come it certainly does. The ensuing set piece battle for control of the town takes up nearly the last quarter of the 133 minute film. To say it’s all guns blazing would be an understatement. In the end there’s a duel to the death between the two leading protagonists and we learn that Washington’s motivation for assisting the townsfolk is also personal.
Fighting for a just cause against seemingly impossible odds allows a measure of personal redemption for the some of the Seven. Midnight Robincheaux (Ethan Hawkes) is a former Confederate sharpshooter who’s lost his nerve amid flashbacks of civil war carnage. He flees on the eve of battle, but changes his mind, taking courage in not deserting his trusty comrades who’ve placed their faith in him.
Card shark Josh Faraday’s motives (Chris Pratt) are more straightforward. Without a mount, for the price of a horse, it seems he’ll ride with anyone. Then there’s a former Indian hunter who looks like he still has half a bear on his back. Add in a Mexican gunslinger, a Native American bowman and an Oriental knife thrower and the mix is complete.
Like the plot itself, the Magnificent Seven take time to gel, mistrusting each other’s motives. The story line fairly gallops along, however, like their trusty steeds, although there’s still plenty of time for familiar reflective moments and personal soul searching on the eve of battle.
Washington plays it straight-laced throughout. Justice is justice while Pratt is mildly amusing in a role that sees him wisecrack his way to take on a Gatling gun single- handedly. The mercenaries must be in it for more than just the money because the final pay-out is odds on an away victory as the full might of Bogue’s forces descend on the town. By the end, I was past caring for most of the characters whether they’d hit the deck or were out on their feet but still standing.
Is the remake any better than the 1960 original – itself a copy of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai? I’ve no idea, and frankly I haven’t either the time or the inclination to find out. All I know is that I think the undertakers in this version probably had a lot more bodies to bury afterwards.
Like the shoot-out at the end of Skyfall, the finale here was just too long to retain my full attention. Like Sevenoaks after the great storm of October 1987, when the dust and smoke finally settles, the Magnificent Seven are seven no longer. Have a bet with your friends as to who makes it to ride out of town again. It might give you something to hang onto when the bullets start flying.