Not the best movie of the year, but a modest jaunt.
Once again, we’re going to watch a Western film, and I am concerned. What was doubly concerning about this is that it was previously done in the 60’s (!), starred Steve McQueen (!!), and, further to that, came from an original idea that was the 50’s movie Seven Samurai (!!!).
I will admit I have not seen the predecessor (because I have a propensity to stay away from Westerns), nor have I seen Seven Samurai (was never on my radar). Fast forward to 2016, and we’ve got a cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, and, for me, a somewhat unrecognizable Peter Sarsgaard (I tuned in to who the villain was about 40 minutes in). This also stars Haley Bennett, who, up until recently, I’ve been lukewarm to (she had roles in Music and Lyrics, and Hardcore Henry, and I found her absolutely irritating in both of the roles she had in those respective movies).
The story is simple: in the late 1800’s (after the Civil War), a town is under siege by an industrialist. The town just wants to take it all back. Resident Emma Cullen (Bennett) sets out to find someone to help, and comes across Sam Chisolm (Washington). Chisolm proceeds to find others who could be of use, they head back to the town, and prepare to defend it.
The writing is predictable, but real. It’s tough with a film like this to really add anything new to the Western movie mix, because many people are familiar with how Westerns usually run: multiple someones gets shot, those folks usually die, and there are winners and losers. This is the case here. However, everyone in the main cast has their moments. Washington had a few points where he was a little too Man on Fire for me, but it worked for the most part. I also really liked that Bennett’s character wasn’t really a damsel in distress (as if we needed more of those). For a female character in a film like this, she was able to stand on her own two feet. The casting was also quite diverse, and it didn’t feel like director Antoine Fuqua was trying to meet some kind of quota; it felt genuine to me, and worked within the story.
Even though you’ll be able to figure out the story as you go, I think it’s still worth watching in theatres. Yes, there’s violence, guns, bows and arrows and tomahawks, which is something to be mindful of when you head in to watch it. It’s nothing to write home about, but could make for slightly entertaining weekend fare.
A solid three standoffs out of five.