Did we need it? Nope. Does it work? Yep.
The basic premise remains: A gang of hired guns (in this case, led by Denzel Washington as a slightly outside-the-law lawman) protects a town that cannot defend itself. In both “Samurai” and in the first “Magnificent,” it was an outside threat that made the people call for help — bandits that sweep in, steal stuff, kill people, rape women and head on out, only to return in a few weeks.
Here, screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto (HBO’s “True Detective”) and Richard Wenk (“The Equalizer”) did one simple thing to make the 1870s story feel much more contemporary: They changed the bad guy.
Instead of lawless ruffians, the gunslingers are now up against mining magnate Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Bogue has already taken over large swaths of the West and has his eyes set on Rose Creek, which has the unfortunate luck of being built over some very valuable ore. What’s interesting is that while Bogue does want the actual land upon which Rose Creek stands, his mine outside the town limits is already hurting the residents — the runoff has poisoned their water.
Bogue is an evil, irredeemable man (Sarsgaard plays him as thiiiis close to being completely unhinged). He’s also the hyperbolic embodiment of the American Dream. He points out with pride that he made his money, disparaging those who inherited theirs. He believes his success is a blessing from God (“If God didn’t want ’em sheared,” he says of the townspeople, “he wouldn’t have made ’em sheep.”). He is Manifest Destiny in living form, a wolf in success’s clothing. Obviously, not all successful businessmen are environment-wrecking, law-evading jerks who measure a man’s worth by the money in his pocket. Some also kick puppies (KIDDING!).
Back when the first “Magnificent Seven” was made, America was all about protecting little others from a bigger, scarier Other that carried a hammer and sickle. This “Seven” for the new century is about what happens when capitalism takes a big ol’ swig of greed, grabs a Bible, wraps itself in the flag and looks to see what laws it can skirt to take what it wants. Through three tellings of this story, evil has taken many forms. In this version, it’s one that looks awfully, uncomfortably familiar.
More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby