#TIFF16 Review: "The Magnificent Seven"


The question that must first be asked when discussing Antoine Fuqua's misbegotten "The Magnificent Seven is simple: why? Why remake the much celebrated original with its pristine Elmer Bernstein score and John Sturges' crisp direction. Sure Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt have charisma to burn and a loyal fanbase that will churn out hard earned dollars for anything new they release, but why even attempt to recreate the majesty of the 1960 original, no masterpiece by the way, and why hire Fuqua, a hack as far as I'm concerned, to direct? Has he done anything of value since "Training Day"? The answer is no,  but with that 2001 movie he scored two acting nominations for Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington, who would end up winning and making history in front of Sidney Poitier as the first leading black man to win a coveted Oscar statuette.

Those days are gone. Now Washington has some kind of genuine affection for Fuqua. "The Magnificent Seven" is their third partnership together, but it's also their worst one. The cast is starry: Denzel, Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard and the action is relentlessly assaultive, but in some fashion satisfying and yet, the rest is abysmal and showcases Fuqua's lack of coherence in his pacing, shot selection and overall artfulness.

Denzel, Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt at TIFF premiere of "The Magnificent Seven"

And what about Washington all scruff-ed up and badass. We first see his Chisolm entering an old west town full of white folks with a horse, it almost makes you think about "Django Unchained" and that famous line I will not utter.  There is not one mention in the movie about his skin color, which in fact should be an issue. Racial injustice in America at that time was brutal, yet when Chisolm struts into town he only gets stares, nothing else. Saving his wholesome public image? The film has no balls to tackle race.

The classic story goes that seven gunmen come together to save a town from thieves that have invaded and taken ownership of it. You know where this is going. The opening hour has Washington's Chisolm rounding about the troops one by one. The setup is recognizable because it has been done many times at the movies. This is not new territory by any stretch of the imagination. It could work, but it doesn`t because Fuqua lacks the talent and the cinematic chops to pull it off. What he does lack in narrative he can almost make up in action sequences. There are two grandiose action set-pieces that work wonders. Just like he did in "Shooter," "Training Day" and "Southpaw" Fuqua gives us a visceral reminder of his knack for great shoot 'em up style cinema, but the substance is non-existent. [C+]