Westerns are back with a vengeance.
When a ruthless businessman takes over the small, yet lucrative mining town of Rose Creek, mayhem ensues. Seeking revenge for this and the murder of her husband, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) seeks out the help of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to put together a posse and retake her town. Along the way, they team up with a sharp-shooter (Chris Pratt), war veteran (Ethan Hawke), Chinese assassin, survivalist tracker, Mexican outlaw and a Comanche warrior.
Hollywood just doesn’t make films like this anymore. From the narrative structure, practical effects, classic western tropes and sound mixing “The Magnificent Seven” very much felt like the 1960s film it was based on.
This film is an excellent example of how to use shaky cam appropriately, and it knew how to frame a bloody stand-off gorgeously against its desert set.
You would never know that this film was PG-13. It’s shot as violently as director Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” but director Antoine Fuqua knew how to use implied violence and subtle gore to get the film’s gritty, high-stakes tone across without earning an R rating. It feels like every 10 minutes a new fight or training montage starts, but it never becomes tiresome. If anything, it’s in these dynamically shot shoot-outs that we learn the most about each character, not through words, but through their actions.
What impressed me the most with this film was the talented cast. I would follow Washington’s character Chisom into hell if he were leading the charge. It’s beyond dispute at this point that Washington is a master of his craft that has aged well in the modern filmmaking climate.
My personal pick for MVP of the cast was Byung-hun Lee as the stoic and dryly funny assassin, Billy Rocks. When he wasn’t commanding each action scene he was in, he brought to life the poignant friendship between himself and Hawke’s character.
What’s upsetting is that Pratt was the only blemish in this film. Pratt played the same character he does in every movie: the roguish, wise-cracking action hero not unlike Marlon Brando in his hay day. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when all I see is Pratt the actor and not the character, it becomes an issue. This was a truly talented cast, but Pratt’s lack of effort to distinguish this role from his others in the past made the film drag at times. That’s not to say that Pratt wasn’t hilarious half the time (because he was), his humor just didn’t always fit the scene.
Believe me when I say this film is a must-see. Not only are the performances excellent, the story is well-adapted to this generation and the production value is through the roof. It’s sure to be a treat for any cinephile looking for their action or western fix.