Though I've seen just about all the 'classic' westerns since the 1960s in the cinema, I've never been an aficianado of the genre.
I caught the 1960 version (itself based on idea from Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai', of course) on its second time around, being too young to see it in its original year of release. (This was in an era when 'major' films appeared in cinemas for two or more runs, and when there was an embargo on their appearing on TV for a number of years - which I believe in the U.K. at this time was the 12 years following release).
I've never seen that film since and all I recall about it was the brooding presence of Yul B., thinking that Robert Vaughan looked attractively dapper (then not yet a household name via 'the Man from UNCLE' - and now the only surviving cast member of that film) - and Charles Bronson somewhere on the mix. Beyond those three I'd be hard pressed to name the other members of the seven. (I've just seen that Steve McQueen was also part of the gang but I can't envisage him in there among them even now that I'm reminded.)
And I recall even less about the story, save that they were a motley band of 'goodies' putting right some great wrong.
The names that most will (or may) recognise in this new version is Denzel Washington as the Seven's leader, plus Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio. Then as arch-villain is Peter Sarsgaard, complete with 'tache and goatee, looking every inch the hard-boiled embodiment of evil, not giving away anything for his demand to mine where he wants, even if it means flattening a small God-fearing town which is inconveniently in his way.
Set in California in the late 1870s (though shot in Arizona and Louisiana), Denzel Washington makes his first appearance as though in a cartoon (I could only laugh, though I don't think that was the intended reaction) - a shootout in a saloon (where else?) in which he exhibits his skill in having not only impeccable aim to kill or disarm several threats, but seems to have eyes in the back of his head as well as in its sides and in his crown!
When told by an aggrieved mother who recognises his useful potential to avenge the horrible injustice done to the town, Washington is easily persuaded to assist as deliverer of justice and rides to the rescue, first going on a mission to round up his gang of various misfits who are also ace fighters. When that is achieved the gang's fierce loyalty to the group is in contrast to the fragile friendships they have to each other as individuals, friction occasionally coming to the surface. But, hang it all, they have a job to do! - viz to eliminate Mr Evil and his considerable clique of helpers. The seven have the town's entire population on their side, whom they train in marksmanship.
The two sides in the final 'battle' are both large in number, and it occupies the film's final half-hour. There's much tumbling of horses, though I was relieved to see that after it was all over, with the ground littered with corpses belonging to both sides, all the horses seem to have miraculously escaped. That made me feel much better.
Western film releases are as rare as hens' teeth these days, something like one or two per decade it seems, whereas in my time there were often several per year. So, for most of today's audience this film could well be received as a bit of a novelty, thereby being considered more favourably than I felt towards it. Context is everything, and many will have little with which to compare this if they haven't seen the 1960 version, so these same people might regard this as a refreshing change. Not so myself, I'm afraid.
Director Francoise Fuqua makes a decent enough effort but it didn't set my mind alight in such a way as to be marked as a 'watch again!' in my memory banks.
Btw: The soundtrack regularly threatens to burst into the iconic Elmer Bernstein theme from the 1960 film which surely nearly everyone will recognise, obviously purposely - and it finally actually does do briefly at the start of the closing credits. No complaints about that.
Not a bad film and, quite honestly, it could have been a lot worse. But I wouldn't go out of my way to give it more than a mild recommendation...........................6.
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