‘Magnificent’ is a bit hyperbolic, isn’t it? It’s the sort of word people use to describe scenery or their own genitalia – and it’s impossible to say without sounding like an overexcited football commentator. Hardly anything is magnificent. The seven men in this remake of John Sturges’ 1960 Western certainly aren’t. They’re just relatively impressive at killing people from improbable distances. They’re The Relatively Impressive Seven. I just wanted to put things into perspective.
The film itself is likely to raise questions, such as ‘why have they remade a perfectly fine classic?’ and ‘why am I asking such a stupid question?’ At the very least, you’d expect director Antoine Fuqua, the man responsible for Training Day, The Equalizer and Southpaw, to bring something new to the Western, otherwise those who regard the original as a sacred piece of art will consider this cultural vandalism. But apart from injecting enough gunfire and explosions to sedate Michael Bay, this is essentially the same film.
When the brilliantly named industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) seizes control of an Old West town and terrorises its residents, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) enlists the help of Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter with the gun skills of RoboCop. To take on Bogue and his men, Chisolm recruits weak joke deliverer Faraday (Chris Pratt), PTSD sufferer Goodnight (Ethan Hawke), hairpin thrower Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), human bear Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), stereotypical Mexican Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) – all of which have bionic targeting systems.
Despite the fact that this film should have been called The Magnificent Three Plus Four Other Actors you Probably Don’t Know, the diversity of the cast is to be admired. Of course, in reality they would have all torn each other apart for having different eating habits, but depicting that scene probably wouldn’t have been very progressive. It can also boast the strong representation of Cullen, a woman who is essentially the boss of these raging sacks of testosterone. She’s also heavily involved in the final showdown, which lasts long enough to completely desensitise me from shooting people in the face.
If you’ve come purely for the action, you’re going to gleefully embrace this gunslinging orgy like someone who obsessively masturbates over the Second Amendment. But those looking for characters with more dimensions than the promotional posters they’re printed on are going to be unsatisfied. Chislom has an emotional prohibitor attached to his brain, Goodnight’s PTSD story is ditched when it no longer suits the shooty parts, and the likes of Billy Rocks, Jack Horne and Vasquez exchange less dialogue than a guppy fish and a tin of spam. The action would be enough if communication and teamwork weren’t essential to avoiding getting shot in the head.