Review: ‘The Magnificent Seven’ Rides Again – This Time With Diversity
At first, director Antoine Fuqua at the helm of re-imagining the 1960 classic western The Magnificent Seven did not seem a likely choice, given his previous resume of contemporary, crooked-law enforcement films like Training Day and Brooklyn’s Finest.
However, all that vanished in the first 10 minutes of seeing the panoramic landscape of a painted desert and covered wagons wheeling into the town of Rose Creek circa 1879. Fuqua curiously became the right man for the job.
What makes Fuqua’s cowboys and Indian so inspired and unique is the diversity in his casting choices beginning with Denzel Washington as Chisolm. The third time is the charm for Washington and Fuqua – who have previously worked on Training Day and The Equalizer together, on their way to a fourth with the recently announced sequel The Equalizer 2.
Chisolm smoothly rides into Amador City on a beautiful black stallion and you immediately know he means business. (A little side history, back in the day the town was actually considered California gold country.) Chisolm is a bounty hunter who has just stumbled upon the town’s takeover by the evil gold prospector Bartholomew Bogue, deliciously played by Peter Sarsgaard.
Now Chisolm must assemble six more men to join his vigilante outfit. They are a merry band of outlaws representing all types of race and creed, namely South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks and Mexico-born Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez. Martin Sensmeir, who is of Tlingit, Koyukon-Athabascan, and Irish descent, plays the lone Indian, Red Harvest.
Fuqua told The Guardian that diversity was intentional, saying, “There is tyranny. But the best part is we have a choice. In the film, we have black, white, Asian, Mexican, Native American, a white woman, all coming together to fight injustice.”
Rounding out the equal-opportunity compadres are Chris Pratt doing his best Clint Eastwood squint, chewing on a blunt cigar. He adds a bit of comic relief as Josh Faraday, who calls out Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne as “that bear was wearing people’s clothes.” The weird thing is the high-pitched voice that comes out of D’Onofrio’s burly body. Whether that was his acting choice or Fuqua’s is unknown but it became a distraction. Ethan Hawke is acceptable as the reluctant sharp-shooter Goodnight Robicheaux.
What keeps your attention watching over two hours of this wild west is Washington who is a sexy and cool gunslinger on screen. Oddly enough his twirling technique came as a result of years of boxing.
He explained to the Press Association, “I have a quick twitch, I’m fast anyway, I have fast hands and fast feet and boxing keeps you young. You twitch muscles and develop that style. I will be boxing in the morning, I’ve been boxing for more than 30 years.”
While Fuqua’s intentions are to be applauded, the characters sans Washington come off a bit like caricatures and the film leaves you yearning for the John Sturges original and the old-fashioned machismo of stars Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.
The Magnificent Seven opens nationwide on September 23, 2016.