Movie Review: “The Magnificent Seven”

Starring
Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Hayley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director
Antoine Fuqua

Hollywood remakes are hardly a new concept, but while there have been a handful of movies that actually improved upon the original, most tend not to be as good, either because they veer too far from what made them enjoyable or not far enough to make it worthwhile. Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” is an interesting case in that it’s technically a remake of a remake, based on the 1960 John Sturges film of the same name, which was itself inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Although it certainly had the odds stacked against it, the movie succeeds where so many have failed by retaining the spirit of its predecessors while also distinguishing itself just enough to stand on its own. It’s not exactly magnificent, but it’s a slick and entertaining take on a familiar tale that’s bursting with personality.

The year is 1879, and the small town of Rose Creek has been invaded by an evil mining baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who presents the townspeople with an ultimatum: accept his paltry offer to buy their land or stay and suffer the consequences when he returns in three weeks. And to prove that he means business, Bogue murders the outspoken husband of Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett). While her neighbors cower inside their homes, Emma goes searching for help in a nearby town and hires bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who in turn recruits six other men – drunken gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), former Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knives expert Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), fur trapper Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) – to protect the town and put an end to Bogue’s tyranny. But as they prepare for the inevitable attack, the seven mercenaries soon realize that they’re fighting for more than money.

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Movie Review: “The Equalizer”

Starring
Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour
Director
Antoine Fuqua

Denzel Washington has never shied away from making movies that many would consider beneath his talents, balancing Oscar-caliber films like “American Gangster” with less serious fare like “2 Guns.” But while it’s not the first time that the veteran actor has indulged in a little butt-kicking fun, “The Equalizer” is certainly his most entertaining – a “Taken”-like action thriller that reunites Washington with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua. In fact, the movie has a certain air of arrogance to it, as if to say, “Anything Liam Neeson can do, Denzel can do better,” and “The Equalizer” makes a pretty good argument for that, heralding a potential franchise for the actor which has curiously evaded him up until now.

Washington stars as Robert McCall, a former CIA black ops agent who faked his own death in order to live a quiet life in Boston, where he spends his days working at a hardware store and his nights drinking tea and reading at a local diner. It’s there that he meets a young prostitute named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), striking up a friendship with the girl during their frequent visits to the joint. When Teri doesn’t show up one night and McCall discovers that she was viciously beaten by her Russian pimp, he decides to pay the gangster a visit and teach him and his goons a lesson. McCall doesn’t realize that they had connections to the Russian mafia, however, and once word of the attack reaches Moscow, they send a specialist (Marton Csokas) to track down the men responsible, initially believing that it was rival mobsters starting a turf war. But after it’s revealed that the seemingly ordinary McCall acted alone, the Russians plan to make an example out of him, unaware of who they’re dealing with.

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Movie Review: “2 Guns”

Starring
Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton, James Marden, Edward James Olmos
Director
Baltasar Kormákur

If you told us that the script for “2 Guns” had been collecting dust in Universal’s vault since 1997, it wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest. Between the reluctant but chatty partners, the non-linear timeline, the quirky but deadly spooks, the unconventional interrogation, the lone female character of importance-turned-hostage, the Mexican standoff, and most importantly, the complete disregard for logic, movies don’t get much more ‘90s than this one. Thankfully, it’s also a lot of fun. It may not have an original thought in its head, but it has Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, and they sell the hell out of it.

Bobby (Washington) and Stig (Wahlberg) are trying to make a big score with Mexican drug lord Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos). The deal doesn’t go down the way they expect, so the two hatch a backup plan: steal the money that their closest ally in Papi’s camp has been stashing, in a small bank in a one-horse town north of the border. Bobby and Stig are expecting a certain amount of cash, but wind up with over ten times that much, and before they know it, they are on the run from every law enforcement agency in the country, not to mention Papi’s drug cartel. Also of note: Bobby and Stig are undercover agents for the DEA and the Navy, respectively, though neither of them knew about the other until everything hit the fan.

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