Remake-mad Hollywood comes up with a good one

Remake-mad Hollywood comes up with a good one
Remake-mad Hollywood comes up with a good one

Add “bounty hunter” — or, as he seems to prefer, “warrant officer” — to the long list of characters that Denzel Washington can call his own. This one’s name is Chisolm, and he is the centerpiece to this remake of a remake with a tale as old as time.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, “Magnificent 7” is adapted from the 1960 John Sturges classic based on Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” This is really just a carbon copy with an updated cast, so don’t look for anything all new and shiny, but if westerns are your genre—and there really aren’t enough of them these days—then this one’s just for you.

When the town baddie Bartholomew Bogue (played with evil relish by Peter Skarsgaard), takes his madness to the point of gunning down innocent townsfolk in the street, Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett), who watched her husband (played by Matt Bomer) die this way, decides to take action. The opportunity arises when Chisolm, a licensed bounty hunter, rides into a nearby town where she now lives. She convinces him to help her and the satchel full of money doesn’t hurt either.

Chisolm, who may have his own reasons, agrees to take on Bogue and one by one he cobbles together a band of misfits convincing them this is the right thing to do—and then there is that satchel full of money, too. There’s card shark Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), sharpshooter Goodnight Robichaux (Ethan Hawke) and his knife wielding friend Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee). Also joining the posse is outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and an old coot named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio). The last of the seven they pick up on the trail when they cross paths with a Comanche named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeir). His bow and arrow skills give them one more weapon in the arsenal, but it’s pretty certain nothing will be enough to stop Bogue’s army.

This is all a lead up to the inevitable showdown, and it is a rip roaring action-packed relentlessly long guns ablazin’ battle scene that should leave die-hard western fans feeling like they got their money’s worth. Just look at the assemblage of stunt men acknowledged in the closing credits. It looks like every man who could stay in the saddle and fire a Winchester was employed for this.

Filmed mostly in Louisiana, where tax credits may favor movie production but there’s nothing that resembles the Old West, the set surroundings had to be altered to make it all work. The panoramic prairie shots that look like they came right out of an old John Ford western were completed near Santa Fe, New Mexico, and add a great sense of scope and natural beauty to the movie.

Fuqua, who worked with Washington and Hawke on “Training Day,” doesn’t really add anything new here, but he gets the job done. And to the complainers that harp on the fact that all Hollywood ever seems to do is remake classics instead of coming up with something original, this is one that seems justified. A great cast and a capable director give it the edge, and there is even an homage to the instantly recognizable Elmer Bernstein score from the 1960 movie wedged in to the other original music composed by James Horner, which leads to the movie’s saddest note. Horner, one of the most prolific film composers working today, died in a car accident shortly before the film was completed. However, he was so enthusiastic about the material that he had already written almost the entire score.

This may not be quite so magnificent as the title allows, but it is pretty darn good, pardner.

‘The Magnificent 7’

Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Rated: PG-13