It’s a remake of a remake—a reimagining of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai in the American West, this time with a more diverse cast in the original (which had been all-white, other than the part-Mongolian actor Yul Brynner). Denzel Washington steps into what was Yul Brynner’s role under a different name, having previously worked with Fuqua via his Oscar-winning performance in Training Day. The cast now includes Asian, Mexican, and Native American actors, reflecting the real diversity of the old West rather than the Hollywood version. It doesn’t seem forced, unlike a lot of films that try to be diverse just for the sake of it. As the director put it in a recent interview: ‘There were a lot of Black cowboys, a lot of Native Americans; Asians working on the railroads. The truth of the West is more modern than the movies have been.’
As in the film’s predecessors, the plot is about a town that hires ‘The Magnificent Seven’ to help them, as they’re under siege by evil industrialist Bartholemew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who attacks in the aftermath of the Civil War. Warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) has to find six of the best mercenaries to train the townsfolk and then fight off Bogue and his minions.
Fuqua has always been a great action director, and an ‘actor’s director’ who gets good performances out of his cast. Washington never puts in a bad performance, so as expected he stands out here. Chris Pratt gets into the Steve McQueen role effortlessly, coming off his performance in Guardians of the Galaxy. Pratt’s cooler-than-cool persona comes off with ease. Ethan Hawke plays Goodnight Robicheaux, a Confederate vet with a messed-up past but excellent shooting skills. He’s obviously suffering from PTSD, and Hawke is a good enough actor to put some real depth into the role despite it being secondary. Vincent D’Onofrio is another of the Seven, a man who has been living in the wilderness so long that he has an odd high-pitched voice—the actor’s own idea and it surprisingly works. D’Onofrio is always an interesting presence on film. Sarsgaard is having a blast as the villain.
The film honours both of its predecessors, but creates its own thing from the material. This is helped by the script by Nic Pizzolatto, who also penned the excellent True Detective series. He’s a fine writer with a knack for dialogue and interplay between characters. It moves at a solid pace, coming in at just over two hours (less than Seven Samurai’s three hours).
The Blu-Ray has something called ‘Vengeance Mode,’ which is a video commentary that can be run alongside the film. Deleted scenes, six featurettes, and a bonus disc with another 30 minutes of featurettes are also included.