[Screen It]


(2016) (Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt) (PG-13)

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Western/Action: A disparate group of men join forces to take on a ruthless mining baron and his armed men who've taken over a small town.
It's 1879 and Rose Creek is a small town in the west that's been taken over by mining baron Bartholomew Bogue (PETER SARSGAARD) and his armed men. When they end up killing various residents, one of the new widows, Emma Cullen (HALEY BENNETT), wants righteousness but will take revenge. When she sees that warrant officer Chisolm (DENZEL WASHINGTON) is more than capable of getting his man and dealing with others, she offers to pay him everything she has for him to deal with the culprit. Chisholm's initially reluctant, but when he hears it's Bogue, he agrees and sets out to put together a small group of men for the job.

Among them is Josh Faraday (CHRIS PRATT), a poker player and dead shot; legendary former Civil War soldier Goodnight Robicheaux (ETHAN HAWKE) and his right-hand man, Billy Rocks (BYUNG-HUN LEE); former Indian fighter Jack Horne (VINCENT D'ONOFRIO); Mexican Vasquez (MANUEL GARCIA-RULFO) and Native American Red Harvest (MARTIN SENSMEIER).

They easily dispatch Bogue's small array of men in the town and allow the sheriff -- who's under Bogue's pay -- to deliver a message that they'll be there waiting for him and his men. As Bogue gathers a small army, the men do what they can to prepare themselves and the townsfolk for the battle that's to come.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Stop me if you've heard this one before. There's a small town in the middle of nowhere in the Old West. The townsfolk are all peaceful people, with some enjoying the local tavern and others the services of the local ladies of the night. Life's hard, but hey, somebody's got to keep pushing westward in America in hopes of a new life and freedom from the "big" cities back East.

But then in rides a villain so, well, villainous that the people drop their eyes and gaze down at the dusty dirt road below, the local sheriff realizes he's out-gunned and out-testosteroned and does nothing, and even the critters take cover. Makes no difference what his name is as he's nothing but bad news.

Someone finally takes a stand, but ends up dead, so one person goes out and finds a hired gun -- however initially reluctant -- to take on the bad guy, and his posse if he has one. Sound familiar? It should as that plot -- or some variation thereof -- has fueled many a western ever since the first actor donned a cowboy hat and six-shooter.

And if you're gonna get one, you might as well throw a few other unlikely heroes into the mix, right? That was the plot of "The Magnificent Seven," the 1960 John Sturges directed Western that featured an all-star cast of actors -- including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, and James Coburn -- playing characters enlisted to deal with the lead villain (Eli Wallach) who periodically raids a Mexican village for food and supplies.

In today's world of remakes and reboots, I'm shocked it's taken someone so long to retool that film, but now it's happened with this week's release of the Western with the same name and similarly recognizable cast. Now before anyone gets their spurs all tangled up in protest, please recall that the original flick was itself a reimagining of "Seven Samurai" from six years earlier.

While I'd prefer to see original films over such remakes, I was willing to give the flick a shot as I sat down for our press screening. After all, how could you go wrong with a movie featuring the likes of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio among others?

With occasional Denzel collaborator Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day," "The Equalizer") in the director's seat and Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk at the keyboard (I'm assuming they didn't peck this out on some old Sholes & Glidden manual typewriter), the plot follows the gist of the previous flick.

In short, a late 1870s Old West town has fallen under the control of a ruthless mining baron (Peter Sarsgaard) who inspires fear in the hearts and souls of all present. But when one man decides to take a stand and is gunned down as a result, his widow (Hayley Bennett) wants righteous but will take revenge. She then hires a warrant officer (Washington) who has no interest until he hears the name of her target.

He then sets out collecting the rest of his septet -- in standard one by one introductory fashion -- and they ride into town and easily dispatch the second tier players positioned there. They then send notice to the lead villain -- who's conveniently not around -- of their intentions to take back the small community and kill him should he return.

With a few days to go before he arrives with what's certainly going to be a small army, they train the locals to their best abilities in terms of defending themselves (cue the montages), all while having some downtime to drink, joke, chat and generally figure a few of them likely won't survive the pending hail of bullets that will start flying in the third act.

There's nothing here we haven't seen before (even throwing out the earlier film), but if you enjoy these sorts of offerings where less than clean-cut "heroes" take out the bad guys, you'll probably find some or all of this to your liking.

The acting is good, the action is decent (and kept at a PG-13 level due to far less blood than the far more abundant deaths via bullets, arrows, knives and so on would suggest), and there's enough comic relief to keep things entertaining. Certainly not magnificent, but decent enough for what it's trying to do and be, "The Magnificent Seven" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed September 12, 2016 / Posted September 23, 2016

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