Westerns have always been the precursor of the superhero genre. 113 years after the first Western ‘The Great Train Robbery’ was exhibited, this genre still has the potential to enthrall audiences, despite this film being a remake of the 1960 classic (with itself was patterned on Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’).
For audiences closer to home, ‘Sholay’ or better still, the 1998 ‘China Gate’ has been modelled on those films. Fuqua’s film has all the elements required of a Western — a megalomaniac obsessed with gold, wanting to buy over the town for a pittance of course and much against the owners’ wishes; a stranger fortuitously riding into town and subsequently rounding up six assorted mercenaries and the townfolk reluctantly agreeing to come on board with a woman spurring them on.
For good measure we have the villain Bart Bogue (Peter Starsgaard) walking into the village church, sermonizing on capitalism and democracy before razing God’s abode, decimating a few locals and walking away in Schwarzenegger style ‘I’ll be back’. Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) walks into town, listens to the folks’ misery and forms a band of warriors to take on Bogue. But it’s still 1879 and besides guns, the arsenal consists of gunpowder, knives and bows-and-arrows. Chisolm, of course, survives and walks away into the sunset with a few casualties.
It’s a universally appealing theme — a gang of do-gooders taking on the baddies. TM7, though long at two hours plus, begins well but then wades into the usual final 30 minutes of warfare. Washington, as the staid out-of-towner gives a reasonably good performance. So does Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday. But Starsgaard, who relies more on his henchmen, has nothing much to do. The cinematography is excellent, the stunts are watchable, while the soundtrack is several notches below the 1960 originals.