By Laurie Coker

Rating: B+

Riding gallantly into theatres is the newest Magnificent Seven, starring Denzel Washington, Haley Bennett , Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Oonfrio, Lee Byung-hun, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and an entertaining ensemble cast. When a film follows the likes of a cult classic, iconic actors like Yul Brenner, Eli Wallach and Steven McQueen and Charles Bronson and has a theme song as memorable as those of Jaws or Star Wars, then it needs to saddle up and hold its own course.  Fortunately, this cast works well together and director Antoine Fuqua offers up a visually delightful old-fashioned western. While some aspects are a tad disappointment, its pacing, smart banter and exciting shootouts more than make up for its faults.

Sam Chilsom (Washington), a multi-hat wearing bounty hunter, lawman of sorts, gathers together a motley crew of criminals and crazies to help a small town rid itself of a sleazy, greedy, heartless robber baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard), who kills without thought or provocation. After her husband is gunned down, Emma Cullen (Bennett) will stop at nothing to see him and her tiny town, Rose Creek, avenged. She, too, takes up arms against Bogue, in what even the seven saviors see as a death mission and for some it is.

Kudos to this exceptional cast for behaving and looking so magnificent in a film that does not quite live up to its title. The characters are rich and multidimensional and while I enjoyed every one of the seven, D’Nofrio stands out a paradoxical bear among men. Pratt delivers his kind of humor – pinging jokes off of Garcia-Rulfo. Sporting a mustache made for the role and wearing all black, the over-sixty Washington is awesome. Sarsgaard seethes sinister and oozes tyranny – an ideal detestable villain.

The set, too, is remarkable – the stuff of quality westerns – wide expanses, dusty clapboard buildings in the middle of nowhere and costuming that is near perfection – breast-revealing low cut dress tops, regardless out how beige or dingy, don’t seem all that realistic and according to my guest – “All real cowboys wore their pants tucked inside their boots,” and most of these don’t.  Fuqua working with a decent, but not spot-on script by Richard Wenk and “Nic Pizzolatto takes time developing his characters and allows for building connections with his audience. Strange, quirky and downright dirty, the seven are the kind of men a country woman would not take home to her parents, but as a team and as fighters there are no better men to take on evil, and they are entertaining as hell fire and damnation to watch.

A PG-13 rating makes a violent The Magnificent Seven kindly palatable without sacrificing the action and exciting shootout sequences. Old westerns proved that it is not necessary to go Quentin Tarantino to boost ratings and cover for potential plot failings. Fuqua’s film earns a B+ – as a remake, it is one of the better contributions.

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