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Just for kicks, he burns down the local church as a parting gesture while promising to return soon. In short order, Sam has filled out his lineup card of talented players.

'The Magnificent Seven': Venice/Toronto Review

Before the inevitable showdown with the bad guys, there's plenty of time to get to know these misfits a bit better. Unfortunately, Fuqua, Pizzolatto and Wenk stick to pretty stock exchanges and filler between isolated bits of action instead of inquiring into illuminating nooks and crannies of their characters. And certainly Sam has a tale or two to tell about his experiences as a black man roaming the West trying to carve out a living. But, no, we scarcely get to know these guys at all.

The Magnificent Seven Theme

We're stuck with the filmmakers trying to come up with one way or another to inject some violence into the proceedings every 10 minutes or so while waiting for Bogue and his goons to show up to take possession of the town. The eventual showdown bears more the contours of an actual battle than it does in the Sturges version of 56 years ago; the Seven have fashioned a bunch of surprises for the invaders — trenches, traps and so on — while, for their part, the demented capitalists have brought along a Gatling gun to mow down as many damnable holdouts as possible.

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Except for the fact that virtually every shot, chop or stab the good guys make hits its mark to make the bad guys quickly drop like toy soldiers, the climactic showdown delivers what it needs to action-wise, leading to a satisfactory wrap-up. The downside of the last stretch, however, is that Sarsgaard's villain cuts a figure more ridiculous than chilling. He shows no intelligence, only ruthlessness.

His eyes are moist and heavily lidded, as if he were on drugs, although nothing like this is referenced. And he seems ill-equipped to command a military operation.

“The Magnificent Seven” and “Goat” | The New Yorker

Which might be part of the point, given the outcome. The cast is OK and does its job, but no more; without question, several, if not all, of the actors in the Sturges film oozed far more attitude, charisma and sense of savvy. As it is, there's a a bit too strong a whiff of modern guys grooving on getting in the saddle and whipping out their weapons.

While mostly shot in Louisiana, the film offers enough rocky vistas here and there to make the Far West setting convincing.

Rough Rides

There are a lot of closeups of belt buckles in this movie and few will complain. Having seen the other versions, I could project my memories on to the new faces, even if they had no names and nothing to say. Newcomers may need help girding their interests.

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  • The one-to-one comparisons drift a bit as you move further down the line. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is a wanted Mexican outlaw, Ethan Hawke is a war veteran and sharpshooter from Cajun country with a secret, and his pal Korean actor Byung-hun Lee is a Chinese expert with blades. The final battle really does go on forever, and in a less inventive way than in the last Fuqua-Washington collaboration, The Equalizer.

    That movie was a stinker, but the Home Depot battle zone in the last reel at least had some oomph. Fuqua is also unclear whether he wants audiences taking this material seriously, or as good-natured exploitation. Individually, both scenes work well enough to make the movie something of a success, but it all adds up to an odd number.