A crew of mercenaries signs up to defend some villagers from being driven out of their homes.
Yep this is a remake of the 1960 Western which was based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai from 1964 which was itself culled from a folk tale of fighters protecting farmers. So it hasn’t been an original concept for many a year.
Taken on its own, this Antoine Fuqua directed film is a good amount of fun. The men making up the team have a distinct range of personalities and Denzel Washington makes is an engaging as ever in his leading role, looking nowhere near his 61 years.
Pretty much everyone gets some screentime and some even manage to raise themselves above stereotype. Chris Pratt is pratty, Vincent D’Onofrio is excessively weird and the rather great Byung-hun Lee pulls off a memorable turn.
Then there’s Ethan Hawke, here reteaming with Washington and Fuqua more than 15 years after Training Day. It’s pretty clear he’s starring in a much more dramatically intense movie and the fella really gives his all on character work that’s well beyond what’s required for this kind of picture.
Supporting players are fine- Hayley Bennet is a guest-star in Hawke’s melodrama and mostly does what’s required of her while displaying an alarming amount of cleavage. Baddie Peter Sarsgaard is fine too, managing to make us wish for his speedy demise.
It’s all fine, which is a pleasant enough surprise in the realm of the remake. And then the final action scene kicks off and it peaks into excellent.
In a world chock full of CG and fast-cutting it’s rare to see chaos mounted with such clarity. It’s a single action sequence which unfolds over at least 30 minutes in a single location with a small team of fighters.
The geography is clear, the battle lines comprehensible and the tally of dead quickly ratchets up. I got to experience this in IMAX and the sound of the explosions and gunfire was truly spectacular, while plenty of real-life stunts really brought the battle to life.
It’s certainly the highlight of the film, as well it should be given the legacy it has to live up to, and features enough differences to what has gone before to make it well worth seeking out, especially for action fans.
See it on the biggest, and loudest, screen you can.
4/5 -Daniel Anderson