The Magnificent Seven

            Yes, it’s a re-make, but the original was in 1960, so it’s probably about time.

Somewhere in the California of the Old West, there’s a town named Rose Creek, which is thriving because of an active gold mine nearby.  The problem is that the owner of the mine, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), rules the town through fear and intimidation.  He’s got the local sheriff and all his deputies on his payroll.  He employs the mine workers, but he also owns the local saloon, which doubles as a brothel.  The townfolk are trying to gather in the little church to discuss what they can do about Bogue’s intimidation tactics, and his intent to take over their farming land with his mining operation, but Bogue himself appears to not only bully a few outspoken men, including the local preacher, but even randomly kill a couple of unarmed men who dared to come to the aid of the preacher.

            One of the widows, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), hears about a lawman in a nearby town who’s not afraid to take on the bad hombres.  Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) had entered a hostile saloon with the intent of serving a warrant on the bartender, but he wound up in a gunfight.  He emerged unscathed, and Miss Cullen enlists his help for her beleaguered town.  Chisolm had heard of Bart Brogue, and what a reign of terror he was enjoying, and decided to help Ms. Cullen and her little town of Rose Creek.  But first he needed to recruit a few tough guys to help.  There’s Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a gambler, card shark, and gunslinger, and Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a Civil War vet known as an unequalled sharpshooter, and just for good measure, a mountain man, an Asian martial-arts expert, and, for equal opportunity employment, a Native American warrior who appears to speak only Comanche (a language which Chisolm apparently knows, as well).  There are 7 hombres in all, and they’re all good in a fight, but even though they win the first skirmish, they know that Bogue will come from Sacramento himself, and bring an army of hired guns with him.

            So it’s not just the gunslingers against each other.  The Magnificent Seven need to recruit the townfolk of Rose Creek to help out.  Even though they’re farmers and ranchers with little experience in firearms, and none in strategy or tactics.  And yes, even Ms. Cullen takes up a rifle, as well, and insists on being part of the defense of her town. 

            It’s a brutal battle, and a bitter aftermath where bodies literally litter the streets.  Not all our heroes survive, but then, they weren’t the good guys, anyway, except that somewhere along the way they kind of caught the vision of acting not just in the interest of their own preservation, but fighting for these hapless townfolk who just wanted their lives back.

            Unfortunately, it’s not a story confined to the Old West.  There are many towns in our hemisphere that are “owned” by drug gangs, and corruption from local law enforcement is rampant.  And we in this country certainly aren’t immune to violence in the streets, either.  But we root for the innocents to prevail here, hopefully not at the cost of losing their innocence.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)       The President of the The Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, openly encourages shooting drug dealers on sight.  The drug trade has decreased dramatically in his country since then. Is this form of vigilante justice the answer?

2)      When have you reluctantly agreed to help someone who begged you, but it cost you dearly?

3)      When have you refused to help someone who begged you, and later regretted your refusal?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association