Director: Antoine Fuqua.
So, Antoine Fuqua reboots John Sturges' classic 1960 western of the same name, which is, in itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's epic 1954 Seven Samurai film that quite possibly spawned many variations of antiheroics across the genres, like Battle Beyond The Stars.
I'm a big fan of misfit bands of rambles like Ocean's Eleven, The Dirty Dozen and even the Avengers, that share the same camaraderie, especially the banter between Faraday and Vasquez who both provide great comedy and admiration for unlikely friendships that are formed from the alliance. It reminds me of my own batch of close friends and how we ridicule each other.
Some of the story has be chiselled, extended and finely tuned to what I find as an improvement. Even with the lack of the fool, who had such a central part of both original plots, but in his absence, a more diverse cast is employed allowing amazing creative opportunities with both action and storyline. Each character now has a more uniqueness and legendary mythology about them than before.
There's a good amalgamation of characters while keeping the core values and traits there; and if you're a fan of the original, there's plenty of elements and lines that play homage to the 1960 classic. It's great to see Fuqua replicating the classic western style, like the distance shots, the panning action and the hazy heated introduction. The tension build up before gun fights are amazing, echoing westerns of old. It also means that whilst keeping true to the core of the story, it's still unpredictable and fresh for fans of the classic.
Fuqua reunites with Denzel Washington for the third time, Washington clearly taking Yul Brynner's part as the all-black-cladded warrant officer (polite title for bounty hunter) and even mimics the holstering of his gun. He takes the role of leader quite naturally and gives the film that Washington dramatic touch, meaning smart, fearless bad-ass.
Chris Pratt takes Steve McQueen's role as Josh Faraday and as expected a sarcastic, cocky, double-wielding six-shooter who's just as fast with his mouth than with his guns and pack of cards. I'm pretty sure they actually let him blow something up because he looks like he's really enjoying himself, though there's a darker side to his character this time round, he's not always the joker.
Haley Bennett is fast become a favourite of mine with already being the beautiful Estelle from Hardcore Henry and looking great in the soon-to-be-released The Girl On The Train. She looks totally different and I don't think I would have recognised her at all if not knowing her name, but she does a grand performances as the determined, widow, seeking righteousness and revenge.
Ethan Hawke maybe over plays Robert Vaughn's original cowardly soldier, suffering from PTSD, but it's a strong performance from him nonetheless. Terminator's latest T-1000, Byung-hun Lee brings a new depth of character to James Coburn's knife-slinger and actually suits the film better, copying the duelling scene from the original. (At least he gets to speak in this film.)
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier make up the rest of the gang as the greasy Mexican, Vasquez and the young Comanche warrior, But it's Vincent D'Onofrio's bear-sized Davy Crocket type character that steals the show with his immense, brutal strength yet a giant gentle soul. And Peter Sarsgaard is brilliant as the slimy tyrant who's takes advantage by power in numbers.
There's a good balance between the characters though lacking some background on most, only having the script hint at their history. It's actually quite nice to notice that the true ethnicity of each character matches their actor.
This is final score of the late James Horner which he composed before his death after falling in love with the script during Southpaw. Horner's long time colleague, Simon Franglen finishes and conducts the music which has hints of Braveheart, Legends of the Fall and even Titanic but the western theme is quite predominate, especially during the end credits.
I'm a fan of Fuqua's work, right from his Training Day and though having a couple of near misses with Shooter, Tears of The Sun and Olympus Has Fallen, I have enjoyed them all but more so his recent films like The Equalizer and Southpaw, King Arthur wasn't a bad film either. But I think this one is my favourite of his and now one of the year. I haven't felt this much inspired or touched by self-sacrificing heroics since The Last Samurai.
The action sequences are superbly crafted, captured and edited, being quite creative without going over-the-top. The gunfights are slick, fast and impressive all the way to the final showdown with dynamite affect. The locations are completely on point and the landscape scenery is beautifully shot. In fact, I'm finding it very hard to fault this film for what it is.
It's reminded me how much fun can be had with westerns while keeping that heroic code of honour, friendship and sacrifice. It's like Marvel made a western. Seen the film twice now and I'm sure I'll go see it again before it comes off the big screen. Definitely for classic western fans, especially having showing so much respect to the original.
Running Time: 10
The Cast: 10
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for reminding me how much fun can be had with westerns, inspiring me and playing so much respect to the original material.