For decades an odd game of Chinese whispers has been played. It started after Kurosawa made the ground-breaking Seven Samurai. When someone whispered the plot to John Sturges, he roughly heard something about a group of seven people saving farmers, therefore changing the samurai to cowboys. Someone hearing a story of actors playing cowboys saving a town of farmers became the Three Amigos and now someone hearing the rough story has made a film about seven cowboys looking cool and killing people.
It’s so far away from the astonishing Japanese original. It’s also very far from from the western it takes its name from. It tries so hard to be cool that it does little more than annoy. As someone who loves westerns it is frustrating to see a good cast and a fundamentally great story done so poorly. If you think people spinning their revolvers after shooting ten men in a row is cool then maybe this is a film for you. If you like your westerns to have some substance, go see Hell or High Water.
Denzel Washington leads this gang of seven posers, all desperately trying to look as cool as possible. He struts across the screen at a deliberately slow pace. His performance would stand out as a bad one if it weren’t for Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke trying to look cooler and failing more than Washington. Outdoing all of them in bad acting stakes is Vincent D’Onofrio who is achingly bad as the odd one of the bunch. He over does everything, from the way he talks to the way he walks. Replacing Eli Wallach’s interesting villain from the original we have Peter Sarsgaard, who is so villainous that he is first seen burning a church down. To say this is a good cast wasted is an understatement.
America has such stunning countryside that has been used so wonderfully in the western genre. Here we have a small town set that fails to convince and in the distance CGI mountains. It looks cheap, but then again, maybe they spent all their money on the cast. The worst shot of all comes at the end – it’s completely CGI and looks abysmal.
I pray that when this story is next retold, the only things learnt from this version is what not to do.
★1/2| Harry Davenport
Western, Action | USA, 2016 | 12A | Sony Pictures Releasing | 23rd Spetember 2016 (UK) |Dir.Antoine Fuqua | Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke,Peter Sarsgaard, Haley Bennett