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The Magnificent Seven
Towards the bullet-riddled conclusion of director Antoine Fuqua's stylish western remake, a voiceover dreamily recalls the self-sacrifice and heroism of seven righteous men, who laid down their lives for a town in jeopardy. "It was magnificent," gushes the film's narrator. That's going a little far. In its bombastic latest incarnation, The Magnificent Seven lassos a stellar cast and a rollicking soundtrack composed by the late, great James Horner and completed by his good friend, Simon Franglen. Action sequences are orchestrated at a canter and Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto's script introduces some moments of bone dry humour in between the frenetic shoot-outs. It's an entertaining ride, but Fuqua struggles to distinguish his battle royale between morally conflicted men from the countless westerns that have trotted down this same narrative trail. Oscar-winner Denzel Washington, who won his golden statuette in Fuqua's 2001 film Training Day, is a swaggering, physically imposing hero, driven to his suicidal actions in the name of retribution. He is matched, verbal blow for blow, by Peters Sarsgaard as the glowering villain of the piece, who demonstrates his wanton disregard for human life in a brutal, unflinching opening act. The year is 1879 and the scars of the American Civil War are yet to heal. The God-fearing folk of Rose Creek seek solace in church, but the spiritual peace is shattered by the arrival of greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard) and his goons, who intend to drive families out of their homes. "Twenty dollars for each parcel of land," Bogue tells the enraged congregation, shooting dead several dissenters, including faithful husband Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer). Grieving widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) and her friend Teddy (Luke Grimes) canter to neighbouring Amador City to enlist the services of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) to kill Bogue. "You don't need a bounty hunter, you need an army," scoffs Chisolm, who has crossed paths with the industrialist before. Moved by Emma's tearful plight, the gunslinger corrals six men of dubious character to wage war in Rose Creek: compulsive gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), sharp shooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). The scene is set for a rootin' tootin' showdown between the rival factions. The Magnificent Seven rests comfortably on the shoulders of Washington and his co-stars. Pratt continues to pigeonhole himself as Hollywood's favourite wisecracking action man and Hawke and Lee catalyse a fascinating and flawed double-act. Sarsgaard chews scenery as if it were tobacco. The script is peppered with well-heeled one-liners - "Fame is a sarcophagus" - and the final assault on a besieged Rose Creek packs in sufficient excitement to warrant staying in the saddle for 133 minutes.