Not that magnificent BUT still worth a watch. Yee-ha!
Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.
It’s always going to be tough to follow in the footsteps of the iconic 1960 Western classic (When does anything ever beat the original?) BUT thanks to a talented cast and some action packed set pieces, this did just enough to stand on its own two feet.
I was happy to see another Western sneak into the busy schedule of endless rom-coms, sci-fi epics and teen blockbusters and one NOT penned by Quentin Tarantino, we have been spoiled!
The slow burning opener didn’t build my hopes up (At first!). I could already feel myself grumbling. The lacklustre lines, the cliched townspeople and that feeble introduction to a weak and weasley villain Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard – Jarhead) had me reaching for my tomahawk.
BUT thankfully once the mysterious Joe Chisolm wandered into town, my nitpicking was put on hold. I couldn’t think of anybody better to follow in Yul Bryner’s footsteps than Denzel Washington. He was everything you expected. Cool, calculated and somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with.
The initial ‘getting the gang together’ spiel did take a while BUT I didn’t mind watching each member make their introduction into the mix. Chris Pratt stole the show yet again by being . . . Chris Pratt. He’s no Steve McQueen BUT the card wielding smooth talker delivered enough charm and quick witted one liners to keep things entertaining.
It was good to see Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) get a meatier role as Jack Horne. If Hodor came from the Deep South, he would probably look like him. “I think that bear’s wearing people clothes”.
Ethan Hawke was brilliant as the decorated veteran Goodnight Robicheaux. I wish more was made out of his partnership with the knife wielding Billy Rocks. Finally Byung-hun Lee was able to show off those blade skills in something other than G.I. Joe.
The pace did drag like a mule in the desert. BUT once the gang finally warmed up to one another and the uneasy alliance began, I was pleasantly surprised. The heated tension subsiding into idle banter. Faraday (Pratt) and Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) delivered some of the better exchanges.
I was a little disappointed that the feisty Haley Bennett (Hardcore Henry) was pushed into the background after taking a pivotal role in persuading the men to save the town. BUT this was always going to be about the Seven.
I think that was one of the main issues. There were too many characters. Luke Grimes (Fifty Shades of Grey) was completely unnecessary. He brought nothing to the mix. Another cook spoiling the broth. Martin Sensmeier got lost in the thick of the action after making an impressionable introduction as Red Harvest. The Comanche dispatched on a tribal quest.
Mauro Fiore’s cinematography was breathtaking. He really captured the picturesque landscape (even if Fuqua focused on a little too much on the extravagant set designs). BUT director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day/The Equalizer) proved one thing. He is a still a maestro at delivering a shootout!
The tension was perfectly executed as the gang bumped heads with “the local law enforcement”. It ticked all the boxes for a good ol’ fashioned Western.
I was hoping that Sarsgaard would have been a little stronger. He was such a nothingy villain. I could get that with an army of a hundred mercenaries and endless wealth that he would be a little cocky BUT every scene he was involved in, he just didn’t do anything for me. I wasn’t unsettled or hooked. Just bored and wondering what Denzel and that dude from Guardians of the Galaxy were up to?
For those familiar with the original, it stayed very true to the story line (Despite claiming to be a “reboot”). The finale was a mixed bag. It delivered bang for your buck and really pushed that 12A limit to the max with the violence. The number of flying axes and endless machine gun fodder. The body count was crazy.
BUT with so many characters in play, too many got lost in the mix of explosions and endless extras which spoiled things. However, the closing 20 minutes did deliver a thrilling and satisfying finale.
Despite a drawn out pace and weak villain, this was still a fun, action packed blockbuster that did nothing to spoil the original. Let’s hope this might trigger a comeback for the Western.