Denzel Washington leads the line in this sharp-shooting 4K remake
When the residents of mining town Rose Creek are faced with either selling their land to – or dying at the hands of – murderous landowner Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), widower Emma (Haley Bennett) heads out to approach warrant officer Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) for help. Swayed by her plight and a big bag of money, Chisholm rounds up six further courageous gunslingers and sets about righting some wrongs, Wild West-style.
Is a remake of the superb 1960 Western – itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai – necessary? Some will think not, but this has enough about it to justify its existence: this time around the gang are a melting pot of cultures fit for a film about 19th century California (including a Mexican bandit and a Native American warrior, not to forget an African American lawman); Westerns are so few and far between these days that any are welcome; and you get to see Denzel Washington riding a horse, firing a six-shooter.
The film is at its weakest during its opening act, with a narrative that flits about as characters and motivations are introduced and there's a general shortage of drama. Yet once it settles into the 'Magnificent Seven' getting the job done, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) handles the action extremely well, constructing lengthy, multi-scene shootouts that pin you to your cinema seat.
Rated 12 by the BBFC, The Magnificent Seven pushes at the boundaries of that certification with some grim moments of physical violence, but still finds space for a few welcome laughs amidst the carnage. And the leading cast all seem to be enjoying the ride, particularly Vincent D'Onofrio (as an ageing fur-trapper) and Ethan Hawke (as a Confederate Civil War veteran with a secret).
All told, this is two hours of old-school escapism. Saddle up!
Picture: As a Western, there was little doubt that The Magnificent Seven would be lensed on anything other than 35mm film at 2.35:1, and the result on this 4K (and 1080p) release from Sony Pictures is a classy image with fine film grain (most noticeable in shots including large expanses of hazy sky, but never a distraction).
It's blisteringly sharp, too. Spin up the UHD version and you're treated to masses of detail, which helps pick out foreground elements such as clothing textures and facial pores, while ensuring three-dimensionality to the image with well-resolved backgrounds, apart from when Fuqua opts for a deliberately shallow depth of field.
The 4K disc's HDR grading benefits from the director's frequent use of sunlight, giving the picture a more nuanced and natural feel than its SDR iteration, while candlelights and reflections are sharp against the darkness in interior scenes. Colour grading, skewed towards yellows and browns, is more stylised than authentic, but it imparts a warmish tone to proceedings.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: Another Sony release which offers DTS-HD MA (7.1) on the 1080p disc but carries Dolby Atmos on the 4K presentation. Both are rootin', tootin' efforts that are high on fidelity and positional effects, with tight bursts of LFE accompanying every gunshot.
With its historical setting, there's not much scope for anything particularly showy or inventive here beyond some impressively weighty dynamite explosions, and – on the Atmos track – some immersive overhead moments during the town siege. And what's offered is balanced, clear and dovetails perfectly with what's happening onscreen.
Audio rating: 4.5/5
Extras: There's a good array of extras here, but the way they're presented is a little odd. The 4K disc houses the film and nothing else, although the menu does feature a 'Moments' option that lets you jump into scenes based around certain elements. Cue up 'Action Scenes', for instance, and it branches between the film's two major shootouts. Handy for demo sessions, we suppose.
On a BD50 disc housing the 1080p version of the film you get the option to watch the movie in Vengeance Mode (the same name for a similar option on the Fuqua/Washington Blu-ray of The Equalizer). This runs the film with spliced-in behind-the-scenes video chatter from Fuqua and the seven leads. It's a neat alternative to a traditional commentary track, and there's plenty of interesting info and insight, but does make watching the movie a near three-hour experience. Too long? Also on this disc are five short featurettes looking at direction, casting, specific scenes, Sarsgaard's villain and the film's score, which was started by the late James Horner but completed by Simon Franglen.
While in the US the 4K release is a two-disc affair, UK buyers get three platters and extra extras. Disappointingly, though, the third disc holds a single seven-part featurette (27 minutes). This plays automatically – there's not even a disc menu – and covers different ground to the other bonus bits but with some overlap. A nice addition, but easy to see why it's been left off in other markets.
Extras rating: 3.5/5
We say: A gorgeous 4K HDR outing for a fun, diverse remake of the classic Western.
The Magnificent Seven, Sony Pictures, Ultra HD Blu-ray & All-region BD, £30
HCC VERDICT: 4/5
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