When I heard this was remake was happening I had really high hopes. Especially when I discovered who was involved. Sadly I never made it to the cinema, but that now seems like it was a blessing.
Because the reunion of Fuqua, Denzel and Hawke, wasn't quite the party I'd been hoping for.
You all know the plot. No need to tread ground here. Even in the 'magnificent' original, the plot played second fiddle to the seven. There is no difference with this, except unfortunately these seven have no fiddles to play.
I would certainly consider it quite the unwanted achievement to make such a bland imitation of one of cinema's most iconic groups. There really is just no cool here. There's no charisma. There's no chemistry. It's quite puzzling actually thinking how badly it all falls flat. Considering the presence of some real heavyweight's in the cinema world too. The ever reliable (and one of my all time favourites) Washington, perhaps has one of his worst roles for years. It's not that he's bad; but for Washington not being bad just isn't good enough. He unfortunately fails to match Brynner's black attired icon. Alongside him in what is undoubtedly the Steve McQueen role, is a very lacklustre Chris Pratt. Probably the hottest rising star around these days, he shows little of why here. A cheeky grin, and the odd wink, is not nearly enough to fill the boots of one of the all time greats. His chemistry with Washington is also severely lacking, and given how tremendous Brynner and McQueen were, this is without doubt one of the reason's the film fails to ignite.
Alongside them Ethan Hawke merely goes through the motions. The big problem with his character comes when you know exactly what is going to happen with him once a certain moment plays out. So the "surprise" when it comes is not a surprise at all. Vincent D'Onofrio, the other recognisable talent among the seven, is given a strange role as an old school mountain man, and he doesn't fit into the group. By far the most interesting and exciting member of the gang is Byung-hun Lee's 'Billy Rocks', an expert with both the gun and the blade. His scenes are comfortably the most enthralling. And rounding the group off are Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier, as respectively a Mexican outlaw and Comanche Warrior. Clearly the studio wanted some diversity thrown into the mix, but both their calls to arms are puzzling, and poorly construed. It makes no sense whatsoever why they would choose to fight this cause, against such overwhelming odds.
And that brings me onto the fighting. Don't get me wrong, the action when it comes is good - slick and nicely edited, each character getting enough bad guys to despatch. But the final battle didn't enthral me as much as I'd hoped. As is the usual cliche, the bad guy underestimates the good guy, but Bogue the villain of the piece, suddenly goes from being clearly a well educated and intelligent man to a simple minded buffoon, making the silliest of error's when his life is on the line. And the big problem with Bogue is he just isn't much of a villain. Peter Sarsgaard isn't the most well known of faces, and I mean no discredit to him when I say a bigger personality was needed for this part. He also gets nowhere near enough screen time, despite the film's 2+ hours running time.
In conclusion I'd say the film is worth a watch for sure, but it is one of the major disappointments of 2016 for me. It should and could have been so much better. The script is also lacking in punch, and the score - something you always associate with a great Western - is sorely disappointing. I highly doubt we'll see any kind of a sequel, but if there is one I would hope to see a different director in the chair, and I also wouldn't be adverse to recasting Washington either. Words I'm sure that would not often be uttered by a film fan.
I was desperate to give it a '7'/10, but I'm afraid that would be doing you all an injustice. Catch it if you can, but there are numerous Western's out there I'd recommend over this. Recent offerings like 'The Salvation', or slightly older affairs like 'Open Range' make for more satisfying viewing. And if you've not seen either of those, I suggest you add them to your viewing list.