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‘Magnificent Seven’ Opens Toronto Film Festival to Mixed Response

Director Antoine Fuqua dedicated the world premiere of “The Magnificent Seven” to the late composer James Horner at the Toronto Film Festival on Thursday night, offering “warmest love and thanks to our departed friend.”

Horner, whose credits include “Titanic” and “Glory,” died in 2015 when his turboprop aircraft crashed in the Los Padres National Forest. He was 61 years old. “The Magnificent Seven” is his last posthumous project.

He didn’t finish work on the score. That had to be wrapped up by Simon Franglen, but, fittingly, he left behind seven completed songs.

“I played it on the set when we had tough days and it was magnificent,” said Fuqua.

“The Magnificent Seven” remakes the 1960 Western film of the same name, which is itself is an update of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic “Seven Samurai.” It had the dubious honor of kicking off this edition of the Toronto Film Festival. In recent years, the opening night films have had a spotty track record. “The Fifth Estate” kicked off the 2013 festival, only to bomb spectacularly at the box office. In 2014, “The Judge” drew a muted response from critics and failed commercially, and last year’s opener “Demolition” was given a cold shoulder by audiences when it opened last spring.

On paper, “The Magnificent Seven” has more going for it and pre-release tracking has been strong. The film reunites Fuqua with Denzel Washington — the pair previously teamed to great effect for “The Equalizer” and “Training Day.” Both pictures screened at Toronto.

Calling the festival his “good luck charm,” Fuqua cracked, “just keep bringing me back.”

Reviews for their latest collaboration, however, were mixed, with Variety’s Owen Gleiberman writing, “You can reassemble the same plot and characters; what’s tricky is reigniting the material’s inner spark.”

Others, such as IndieWire’s David Ehrlich were more generous, praising the film and arguing that “great chemistry and a subtle political undercurrent make Antoine Fuqua’s remake of a remake feel like something new.”

Sony, which is backing the film with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, hasn’t released a budget, but the western cost $90 million to make. All that sharp-shooting, horse riding, and Washington and co-star Chris Pratt, don’t come cheap. Fuqua admitted that the production was a grueling one in remarks just before the film started.

“This movie was tough with the weather and the horses…with this motley crew, it was a rough one,” said Fuqua.

Toronto Festival-goers are a notoriously forgiving bunch, and they hooted and hollered at “The Magnificent Seven’s” bloodletting and bon mots. But the Western’s slow start also had a smattering of walkouts. Mainstream audiences will have their chance to weigh in when the film hits theaters on Sept. 23.

The film’s after-party was held down the street at Byblos Restaurant, where crowds gathered to get a glimpse of Pratt or Washington, but Sony didn’t invite press inside. The official Toronto party at TIFF Bell Lightbox lacked movie stars, but guests could try two flavors of of homemade ice cream on a roof deck along with lobster sliders, peach-flavored French toast,  and cotton candy.

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