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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 25, 2016

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review: Just Like 'Ben Hur', The Original Is Still Better Than The Remake

ONE OF THE most memorable westerns of our youth is “The Magnificent Seven” in 1960 (along with “The Searchers”, “Shane”, “The Fastest Gun Alive”, “The Hellions”), directed by John Sturges with its unforgettable theme music that was later used in the Marlboro Country commercials. It was so popular it even spawned a local version, “Dakilang Siyam”, also a western with the late FPJ and members of the then popular LoWaist Gang. The Hollywood western is actually a remake of the acclaimed 1954 Japanese film, “Seven Samurai”, by legendary director Akira Kurosawa. We now realize how old we are since many movies of our youth are being remade, like "Ben Hur", which flopped miserably. Kasi naman, why don't they just leave well enough alone?

Now comes "The Magnificent Seven" remake by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”, “The Equalizer”, “Southpaw”). The original starred Yul Brynner as the leader, with Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Horst Buchholz and Brad Dexter who all later became leading men. The new version stars Denzel Washington (there’s no black guy in the original), Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio (the villain in “Daredevil”), and a multiracial cast with Oriental actor Lee Byung Hun, Latino actor Manuel Garcia Rulfo and Native American Martin Sensmeier.

Set shortly after the American Civil War, it’s about the town of Rose Creek which is harassed by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a greedy and ruthlessly violent white mining capitalist (in contrast to the original’s Hispanic bandido) who wants its people to sell their land to him at a much lower price. He burns their church and vows to return soon, so the residents, led by a redhead named Emma (Haley Bennett) whose husband (Matt Bomer), was killed by the villain, ask the help of seven gunmen to help them fight their tormentors.

The leader is Sam Chisholm (Denzel), a stoic bounty hunter; then there’s Josh Faraday (Chris), a gambler who’s good at explosives; Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan), a sharpshooting veteran of the Civil War known as the Angel of Death; Jack Horne (Vincent), a frontiersman and tracker who’s the oldest in the group; Billy Rocks (Byung-hun), a Korean assassin good with blades; Vasquez (Manuel), a Mexican outlaw; and Red Harvest (Martin), a very buff Comanche warrior.

So many good actors were assembled for this movie (Chris Prat is a scene stealer with his wisecracks and magic tricks and Sarsgaard chews the scenery as evil personified Bogue) and in all fairness, it’s quite efficiently made, especially the Asian fighter throwing his knives at the bad guys and the Native American guy using his arrows without missing a shot. But still, in these days of revisionist westerns, particularly those made by Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”, “The Hateful 8”), this certainly pales in comparison and looks more like a generic, old fashioned western. But those who like violence will enjoy it as Fuqua makes sure he injects a violent scene or two every ten minutes to make sure we won’t be bored by the slow buildup while waiting for the climactic shootout between the Seven versus Bogue and his heavily armed thugs.

The rousing finale showdown won’t disappoint action fans as it’s a much bigger battle compared to the one shown 56 years ago. The Seven prepare a slambang gathering of booby traps and violent surprises for the bad guys who come along with a Gatling gun. We just wish we viewers were given more cause to like and make a connection with the seven lead characters so we could sympathize more will all of them.

Musical director James Horner passed while doing this movie and someone took over to finish his job. Don’t be surprised when you hear the music of composer Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score from the original being used in the soundtrack, which helps remind us all the more than the 1960 version is really a much simpler but quite a better one than this remake.