First Hit: The original 1960’s film had heart, this one doesn’t.
As much as I like Denzel Washington (playing Chisolm) and Chris Pratt (playing Josh Faraday) in films, this one felt dead. No character was really given a story to care about until the end when Chisolm shares why he really took the job to kill and defeat Bartholomew Bogue’s (Peter Sarsgaard) group of men who controlled the small western town. But until this moment, there was only some “telling” as to why this small band of men decided to protect this small town versus engaging the audience in a story having heart.
It is a shame, because there's a slew of wonderful actors in this film but they cannot make up for a mediocre script by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto and direction without vision. Yes, director Antoine Fuqua got the action of movement and shooting to kill reasonably well. He even got the small western town set well, but the heart of the film, the townsfolk’s fear as shared by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), lacked depth as did most of the Seven hired men.
The strong points of the film were initial discovery of each of the characters. But after this, it fell flat. Besides Chisolm, the main characters were: Faraday as a self-professed great lover and fast drawing gunslinger. Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) as a team of two who bet on their skills of speed to take people's money. Goodnight, who was formerly a confederate sniper with legendary rifle abilities haunted him. The overall story about his connection with Chisolm is that Chisolm saved Goodnight from self-destruction.
As in kind, Rocks, a foreigner, was being help to interpret the West by Goodnight. Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) was the least defined character. Still not sure how or why he joined the group. Red Harvest (Martin Sensmier) was a Comanche Indian that was ousted from his tribe and seemed like he needed something to do.
The most amusing and fun character was Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) who was a bear mountain man sort of a guy. He was fond of pontificating religious beliefs and sayings all the while being part of the team of seven. The basic story is that these seven men help a small town from a siege by Bogue and his army of killers that have taken over their gold mines.
Washington did what he could do to make this film work, but the lack of a good screenplay and an action only focused director, let him down. Pratt made the most of his character and, although he didn’t seem to care about the lack of story, he made it fun for himself and the audience. Sarsgaard’s role didn’t work for me. He didn’t seem to embody the role from the inside although his actions were rather ruthless. Bennett did what she could to create caring about the town and its hapless citizens. She was one of the stronger characters. Lee was OK and seemed to relish his role as fast with a knife. Garcia-Rulfo did what he could but I didn’t get his particular “role”. Hawke was OK but his fear of killing more people wasn’t developed very well. Sensmier had a strange role in that I never got why he would bother helping this band of white men in their quest. I did like his handling of the Indian character on Bogue’s team as it was inevitable that these two would tangle. D’Onofrio was very engaged in his role. He embraced the nuttiness of this man bear. Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto’s screen play from the famous Akira Kurosawa Seven Samurai screenplay was poorly conceived. It lacked heart and a way for the audience to care. Antoine Fuqua did the action part OK, but everything else was empty – no soul.
Overall: Don’t bother seeing this version go back to the 1960 version – much better.