56 years after The Magnificent Seven roared into theaters (and another six years since The Seven Samurai did it first), Denzel Washington belts a couple holsters around his hips for Antoine Fuqua’s remake. It’s the third time the pair have collaborated (after Training Day and The Equalizer), and it’s further proof that they’re a pretty darn good match for each other.
Washington stars as Sam Chisholm, a warrant officer in the 1879 Old West, hired by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) to protect her town from bad guy Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who does his best Dick Dastardly impression as a man who wants to pillage Rose Creek for its gold mine. The townsfolk don’t have the wherewithal to stand up for themselves, so it falls on Chisholm and his motley crew of hired hands to try to save the day.
And what a wild bunch they are. Chris Pratt is Chisholm’s right-hand man Josh Faraday, Byung-hun Lee is knife expert Billy Rocks, and Washington’s Training Day co-star Ethan Hawke is sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux. Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier round out the septet. Not only does each character bring something to the fight, each actor brings enough to make his role memorable; this isn’t an ensemble piece as much as it is a collection of rock-solid performances.
It’s a far cry from the 1960 original, but frankly there’s nothing wrong with that. There is enough here (including an end-credits reprise of Elmer Bernstein’s classic score) to feel familiar, but there’s also plenty in Fuqua’s version to have this Magnificent Seven feel comfortably like its own movie. And even though Sarsgaard’s Bogue is far more cartoonish than Eli Wallach’s Calvera, he’s still menacing enough to prove a worthy opponent for Chisholm and his gang.
The script by Nic Pizzolatto (HBO’s True Detective) and Richard Wenk (The Equalizer) is equally fun and fierce, and because we’re so deeply embedded in the Old West atmosphere, an otherwise goofball line like, “You’re a yellow-bellied, sap-sucking coward,” actually works here. It’s just part of the rootin’-tootin’ good time.
Though shot primarily in Louisiana (made up to look like western Kansas), The Magnificent Seven has the authentic feel of a old time Western, from the clapboard town they built from scratch to the grimy makeup and costumes. Fuqua went all out to make it feel real, and it pays off. Good westerns don’t come along that often (and no, 2014’s infantile A Million Ways to Die in the West wasn’t one of them), so when something as fun as The Magnificent Seven arrives, it’s great to be able to just sit back and watch them six-shooters fly.