The Magnificent Seven – How the West was Hung

A general film festival rule is not to see anything that will be widely released within weeks of the screening. But, Denzel (no name necessary, aka the Big D) is in M7, so enough said. I saw this during the Toronto International Film Festival, and have mixed feelings about it. The last time I saw an Antoine Fuqua / Denzel collaboration it was 2015’s The Equalizer. I liked it but it wasn’t a standout movie for me. M7 is a vengeance flick, set in a Western genre. The ‘western’ is a situation, not a location. There’s the black hats, the white hats and the showdown shootout that separates the men from the boys. Like the same way Star Wars is a western. Yeah, that’s the way I see things.

The modest, God fearing little farming / ranching community of Rose Creek is doing just fine before ruthless Bartholemew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) comes a callin’ with his army of hired guns to take the mineral rights and anything else he wants by force. The ‘farmers, not soldiers’ put everything of portable value they have in a bag to hire anyone who will help rid them of this threat.  It takes the determination of Emma Cullen who lost her husband after a short confrontation with The Boguester to find Chisolm, a bounty hunter played by Big D. He initially registers mild recognition of the villains name and becomes our hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold to lead a citizens revolt.

Chisolm proceeds to recruit 6 others (with the promise that the job is impossible), who are talented in the way of the gun, ax, knife and various pointed projectiles to join him in the pursuit of justice. I use the word ‘recruit’ very loosely. It seems that as they move across the wide open spaces of the wild west towards Rose Creek (without Google Maps!) , they assemble almost as if they have nothing better to do than approach an uncertain situation with terrible odds. As the “other suicide squad” increases in numbers,  there really isn’t much in the way other than a brief introduction to their history to set them apart; except for the sexiest outfits this side of the Village People (not complaining). Sometimes all the character development needed is lingering crotch shots while men in silhouette walk slowly towards the screen. Hey, every once in awhile I’m easy to please.

Chris Pratt does the wise cracking cowboy version of Gambit, as expected. Ethan Hawke is a former war hero, the ‘Deadshot’ in this gang with a touch of PTSD for flavour. Vincent D’Onofrio has the preacher complex, sharing scriptures with every hatchet throw. Byung-hun Lee, Martin Sensmeier and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo join the diversity upgrade in this modern take on the Seven Samurai. Big D is the strong, silent messiah who will have the final word. Emma is the only woman who isn’t a lady of ill repute in the story, so there’s diversity and then there’s equality in the late 1800’s.

Sets of wooden, two level store fronts on main street in the scrappy oasis sprung from middle of the desert are familiar backdrops. Fuqua’s sweeping, tracking shots are great in this film, giving smooth movement to fast action sequences. A mix of musical genres modernizes the overall tone of the story without distracting from it.

One thing though…..the seven aren’t exactly “Magnificent”. But “The Capable Seven” doesn’t have the same ring to it. I was surprised at the amount of carnage and Matrix style quantity and volume of loud firepower. But, Chisolm and Bogue didn’t exactly bring their men to talk.

This is a great date movie. Everyone will get their popcorn’s worth with (just) enough story, lots (and I mean LOTS) of action. M7 has a satifying ending with a slightly predictable twist, just to keep it interesting.  Go see it for an old fashioned, good time.

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