‘The Magnificent Seven’
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt
3 (out of 5) Globes
“The Magnificent Seven” is a Western. Maybe that’s good enough. The genre has long been as dead as a town drunk who challenged John Wayne to a duel. For every successful exhumation (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Django Unchained”), there’s an earth-rattling bomb (the over-hated “The Lone Ranger”) that kills it dead again. It’s nice, in 2016, to have an oater where a dusty badass walks into a frontier saloon and the piano player stops playing; where a shoot-out happens only after an endless stare-off; where people get shot and fall into a bloodless non-mess. These are cliches, moth-ridden well before “Blazing Saddles” seized upon them. But the Western is a genre that feeds on cliches, thrives on the comfort of familiarity. And besides, do millennials even know what a frontier saloon is?
Watching Antoine Fuqua’s redo of “The Magnificent Seven,” that pokey 1960 classic about gun-slinging rogues hired to save a town from rascally bandits, is a bittersweet experience — or as bittersweet as a movie can be when it sports a potentially Guinness-level body count. You might be eager to forgive it its slight tonal problem, even its superficial volleys for diversity. Our heroic septet, once six white guys and Yul Brynner, are now a “Fast and/or Furious” rainbow: Now it’s three white guys, a black guy, a Chinese guy, a Native American. “We got us a Mexican!” one of the Caucasians (played by Chris Pratt) jokes when they enlist Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), who is indeed Mexican. But it’s not really a joke. Vasquez, like the other non-whites, isn’t a character so much as a walking ethnicity (and, needless to say, a Donald Trump nightmare).
It will be awhile until Hollywood learns to see other races as people, not People. (It also throws in a strong, rifle-toting woman, played by Haley Bennett, who’s the most swaggering of the otherwise expendable townsfolk.) But until that change comes, “The Magnificent Seven” can always stand as a passable if sometimes questionable entertainment, and the first to give us the sight of Denzel Washington, dressed in all-black, astride a horse. And that’s not nothin’.