MOVIE BUFF-ET: Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven could be this generation’s Tombstone

(From left) Vincent D’Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee star in The Magnificent Seven.

Columbia Pictures

If you like Westerns and are looking for a fun time at the movie, chances are director Antoine’s Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven will hit your target.

But if you’re looking for artful originality or something you’ve never seen before, why are you even considering seeing a remake of a remake in the first place?

It looks like Fuqua and star Denzel Washington had a ball playing Western in remaking John Sturges’ 1960s classic that starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. That film itself was an Old-West retelling of the Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece Seven Samurai.

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The movie’s an obvious tribute to the John Ford and Sergio Leon Westerns that Fuqua, Washington and co-star Ethan Hawke, who also teamed in the Academy Award-winning Training Day, cut their teeth on as young film fans.

The story is familiar if not from Kurosawa’s film, then from the dozens of other movies and TV show that have borrowed the classic setup over the years.

This time ruthless industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (a scene-chomping Peter Sarsgaard) is greedily forcing good folks off their land for $20 a parcel with a hired-army of gunslingers because there’s gold in “them thar hills”, and he has the money to do it.

When one resolute clod buster (Matt Bomer) resists after the town’s church building is burned out, Bogue shoots the unarmed farmer dead in the street in front of dozens of witnesses. While most of the townspeople cower, the dead farmer’s wife Emma (Haley Bennett) sets out to hire her own force to push Bogue out and set things right.

That force begins with Washington’s bounty hunter Sam Chisholm, who is uninterested in the job until he hears the name Bogue. There is history there, and Chisholm isn’t about to miss his opportunity for retribution no matter the odds.

From there, Emma and Chisholm begin to collect their eclectic team of deadly but big-hearted outlaws, misfits and outcasts, who join in against Bogue for their own reasons of greed, honor, wrath, and boredom.

Chris Pratt is the cardsharp Josh Faraday, who is almost as quick with his wit as he is with his gun. Hawke plays Goodnight Robicheaux, a legendary sniper for the Confederate Army. Robicheaux’s partner is Billy Rocks a skilled assassin from the East, who is adept with a gun, but prefers to work in close quarters with his array of blades.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is a devil-may-care outlaw from Mexico with a knack for slipping out of the deadliest situations.

Vincent D’Onofrio is the scripture-spouting, bear-like tracker Jack Horne, who seems to have lost his mind somewhere in the wilderness. Martin Sensmeier is the Comanche warrior Red Harvest, who was so wild he was thrown out of his tribe.

Even if you’ve never seen the original or the Japanese film it adapted, you can still see where the film is headed a mile away, but the camaraderie among the cast and the excellently choreographed gunfights and action make the movie a hoot to watch.

There have been better Westerns made this year. Hell or High Water is still in theaters and is one of the best movies of the year if not the best, but Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven captures all the fun and furor that made Westerns the dominant film genre of much of the 20th century. Fuqua provides a very slick, well-crafted, and appealing package.

While the picture lacks the complexity and emotional resonance of the best Westerns, it provides a fun night at the movies. With that in mind, this latest version of The Magnificent Seven could wind up being this generation’s Tombstone.

(PG-13) 2 hrs. 13 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

Adam’s Rib
Chemistry fuels a romantic comedy, and Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy had chemistry aplenty.

From 1942 until Tracy’s death in 1967 after filming Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the duo co-stared in nine films. All of them are at least good and some of them are great. It’s difficult to select a favorite, but without a doubt Adam’s Rib is one of the best.

The film pits Tracy’s character Adam Bonner, a prosecuting attorney, against his wife Amanda (Hepburn) a defense attorney, in a case where a woman (Judy Holiday) has shot her cheating husband (Tom Ewell), and the rivalry and the hilarity spills over from the courtroom into the Bonner’s home. The case has the couple seriously but hilariously question the merits of their own marriage.

The 1949 film directed by George Cukor (A Philadelphia Story and A Star is Born) is dated, but the humor still hits home, and Tracy and Hepburn’ s chemistry still sizzles.