The western roars back with ‘The Magnificent 7’

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The Magnificent 7 (2016)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

The modern western roars back with a vengeance in the big, bold remake “The Magnificent 7,” from the director of “Training Day” and the creator of “True Detective.”

When Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his men viciously take control of the young homesteader town of Rose Creek, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) refuses to give in without a fight. When her husband takes a bullet for the town, Emma seeks the help of Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter, and the team of six men he puts together (Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Byung-hun Lee, and Vincent D’Onofrio) to help the untrained town fight back against Bogue and his powerful army.

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Before his life was cut short just over a year ago, during this film’s pre-production, the legendary composer James Horner teamed up with frequent collaborator Simon Franglen, to create the score for “The Magnificent 7.” In a way that pays respects to the iconic original score, without recycling it, Horner gave this remake a life of its own. That score, plus the always-reliable cinematic shots of the beautiful American West, set the stage for what promises to be an epic showdown of seemingly unlimited lead. You know the story, whether from the 1960 version of “The Magnificent 7” or any of the other adaptations of 1954’s “Seven Samurai,” but anticipating what’s to come makes the explosive conclusion all the more exciting. In 1960, Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen take their time assembling their avengers. Here, the set-up is quick and efficient, so that the climactic showdown can get the attention it deserves.

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In “The Magnificent 7,” director Antoine Fuqua and stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke share credits on the same film for the first time since 2001’s “Training Day,” for which Hawke and Washington both received Oscar nominations and Washington won. Here, that chemistry looks just as real, though 15 years has passed and both men are showing their age (well, Denzel not so much). But they’re not alone. Chris Pratt brings his unique brand of comic charm to every line he speaks. Either Pratt has begun ad-libbing some of his lines, or Hollywood writers are catching on to how they should write for the young star. Pratt is countered nicely by Haley Bennett, the female lead in “Hardcore Henry” and a serious presence in Hollywood action movies for the foreseeable future.

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All that said, you quickly discover that “The Magnificent 7” is exactly the kind of Hollywood epic that you’ve come to expect from the summer months—filled with implausible physics, predictable plot twists, and convenient narrative devices intended to make you applaud at the end. It’s incredibly showy and crowd-pleasing. But “The Magnificent 7” force-feeds valiant deaths and ultimately happy endings just about as good as anything I’ve seen all summer.

7/10

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