Sunday, December 18, 2016

Video review: "The Magnificent Seven"

There’s not a lot that’s quite magnificent about “The Magnificent Seven,” though there is plenty to like. It’s got great actions scenes, twinkly anti-heroes, scornful villains, memorable supporting characters and lots of eye candy.

What it doesn’t have is any reason for existing. A remake of the seminal 1960s Western, which itself was based on Akira Kurosawa’s landmark “Seven Samurai,” this film is essentially a PG-13 nostalgia romp for its own sake.

Still, what’s not to like about Denzel Washington as creased, calculating bounty hunter Sam Chisolm? Or Chris Pratt as wise-cracking gambler/shootist Josh Faraday? Add in Ethan Hawke as a genteel Civil War legend/sharpshooter, Vincent D’Onofrio as a weirdly amusing mountain man/lunatic and a passel of other wayward cowpokes, and you’ve got yourself a movie.

You know the story: evil power-monger (in this case, Peter Sarsgaard’s sneering cattle baron) puts his boot on the collective neck of a town of farmers, who decide to hire their own gunslingers to protect them. Our seven heroes are mercilessly outnumbered, but with a little luck and some careful planning, they make a battle of it.

Director Antoine Fuqua, who’s made some stellar movies with Washington, and screenwriters Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto don’t try to fancy things up beyond the essentials: stand-offs, wisecracks, a few lightly scary moments, a noble sacrifice or two. The last third of the movie is essentially one long action scene, and it’s harrowing stuff.

This film surely won’t be immortalized like the original was. But “The Magnificent Seven” has a job to do, and does it with skill.

Bonus features are decent if not especially expansive. The DVD edition comes with four making-of featurette documentaries. Upgrade to the Blu-ray version, and you add two more plus several deleted scenes.

The Blu-ray’s highlight is a “Vengeance Mode,” where you can watch the movie with key scenes broken down with comments from the director and cast.



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