REVIEW / WESTERN
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (PG13)
133 minutes/ 2.5 stars
The story: The farming town of Rose Creek has been taken over by thugs working for robber baron Bart Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Emma (Haley Bennett), whose husband has been murdered by Bogue, pleads for help from bounty hunter Chisholm (Denzel Washington).
Say this film's title and Elmer Bernstein's unforgettable theme melody from the 1960 version should thunder in your head (and you do know it, even if you think you don't).
Director Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, 2015; The Equaliser, 2014) does not play it until the final credits, but otherwise, this is the same movie - desperate farmers are squared off against a gang of robbers, and the only thing standing between them is a motley defence force of anti-heroes.
Fuqua makes unsubtle, burley movies about men reclaiming their masculinity and it is clear why he was drawn to this remake of a remake (the 1960 movie was based on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai from 1954).
This version gets a Singapore- style Group Representation Constituency makeover, however.
Among the fighters are the African-American leader Chisholm (Washington), the Native American Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), the Mexican Vaquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and the Asian Billy (Lee Byung Hun). Faraday (Chris Pratt), Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) fill out their number.
The GRC-style updating carries on by making sole female co-star Emma (Bennett) more than just a love interest.
The director's love of the Western genre is apparent in the way he pays homage to all its traits - the vistas of fields, woods and gulches; the main street gun duels; the idea of a frontier as a place where bad men can find honour by killing even worse men.
But making it all louder and larger does not hide how everything here feels dated.
The idea of a team of outlaws recruited to protect the innocent has been replayed so often in so many genres (science fiction and war action, most notably) that this remake feels less like a remake and more like a repeat.