(US - 2016)
Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard, Haley Bennett, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Cam Gigandet, Jonathan Joss, Sean Bridgers, William Lee Scott, Griff Furst. (PG-13, 133 mins)
As unnecessary as almost any remake nowadays, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN brings some revisionist multi-culturalism to the table but little else, instead choosing to coast by on the strength of its cast. And when that cast is headed by the always excellent Denzel Washington, it's enough to get the job done, even if it has zero chance of escaping the shadow of either John Sturges' 1960 original or that film's inspiration, Akira Kurosawa's immortal 1954 masterpiece SEVEN SAMURAI (and, lest we forget, the Roger Corman-produced STAR WARS-inspired variant BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and Bruno Mattei's 1984 sword-and-sandal take THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS). Washington is reunited with his TRAINING DAY and THE EQUALIZER director Antoine Fuqua and his TRAINING DAY co-star Ethan Hawke (also in Fuqua's BROOKLYN'S FINEST), who also brought along his BFF Vincent D'Onofrio (also with Hawke in THE NEWTON BOYS, STATEN ISLAND, BROOKLYN'S FINEST, and SINISTER and a star of the Hawke-directed CHELSEA WALLS), who was in JURASSIC WORLD with Chris Pratt, giving MAGNIFICENT '16 the feeling that everyone involved is having a good time with old friends. That helps, because the story itself is as standard and formulaic as it gets, adding an unnecessary revenge element in the late-going that veers from the sense of selfless altruism and sacrifice that was key to the heart and soul of SEVEN SAMURAI and MAGNIFICENT '60. It undermines it to a point where you feel that Washington's character has essentially lured these other six saps on a suicide mission, but that's probably putting more thought into this than Fuqua and co-writers Nic Pizzolatto (TRUE DETECTIVE) and Richard Wenk (THE EXPENDABLES 2 and, yes, THE EQUALIZER) had in mind. MAGNIFICENT '16 isn't likely to be mistaken for a great western, but it's entertaining, fast-moving, and the cast--most of it, anyway--is solid enough to help gloss over the bumps along the way.