My heroes, like Willie Nelson’s, have always been cowboys and ‘still are today’. I’m sure one day when this genre is gone, the sci-fi cowboys will be this generation’s heroes. That said, if this is the only modern western the millennial group will watch, then this is an OK western. Like its predecessor, this film is based on Akira Kurosawa’s beautiful film, SEVEN SAMURAI.
For those of you unfamiliar with the plot; a small village is being terrorized by a group of very bad men. They pool their resources and go in search of a savior. Seven men, also in need of redemption, are found and come to the aid of the village. It is a classic tale of good vs. evil and of men finding the good inside themselves in order to help those in need.
It was very difficult to watch this film and to not make comparisons to the 1960 film with the same title. It is a classic western, with a great musical score, and filled with wonderful performances from Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and Eli Wallach.
The new film stars Denzel Washington as Chisolm, the leader of the group, Chris Pratt is Josh Faraday in the McQueen role and Peter Sarsgaard as the truly wicked Batholomew Bogue. Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio are along for the ride but Manuel Garcia Rulfo as Vasquez comes the closest to being a true ‘cowboy. Haley Bennett is good as Emma Cullen, the young widow who has to decide if she wants justice or revenge for the death of her husband. She holds her own on screen with these men. This film is a lot more intense and violent than the 1960 film; the screen is littered with bodies by the closing credits. Not of exploding bullet hits and I appreciated that, but still lots of dead people.
Washington plays Chisolm well, but he’s not a cowboy. He doesn’t have the walk or the look. In the barroom scene, he’s missing that steely glint of an Eastwood as he surveys the room looking for the man he’s come to get. That scene is borrowed from a spaghetti western and for those of us who watched lots of those, you will understand what I mean when/if you see this film. Most of the actors lack the walk of a Wayne or Cooper; or Marshall Dillon. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then this won’t bother you. I missed the camaraderie of the first film. This film is slow to tell you the heroes’ background stories and the villain, Bogue, is horrid. You can’t wait for him to finally die; which he does in interesting fashion. Chris Pratt needs to stay in his futuristic movies; he’s not convincing as a cowboy.
Fuqua is said to have made this film to be closer to the Kurosawa film. It has been such a long time since I’ve seen that one, I can’t comment. I will say that I wonder why Hollywood keeps remaking really good movies that have/had huge viewing audiences. The 1960 film plays on TCM at least two or three times a year. Ben Hur, the original, is probably one of the best made films of that genre; Ghostbusters, while not a great film, it was funny the first time around.
Go see the film; I would like to know what you think. There was a good audience for it when we saw it. I liked the man’s comment sitting a couple of seats over, “ It’s OK, but they can’t hold a candle to Yul and Steve.” My husband was happy to hear a few strains of the Elmer Bernstein score at the end of the film. Later watch some of the classic westerns on TCM; if you need suggestions, please ask. Like I said, ‘My heroes have always been cowboys.’