Denzel Washington, The Magnificent Seven

Movie Review: The Magnifcent Seven (2016) *So Far So Good?*

Chris Pratt, The Magnificent Seven

Hollywood has gone so remake crazy that it is literally eating its own tail at this point.  There may be multiple versions of every movie ever made in a decade, but of all the ridiculous, stupid, and offensive attempts to present a new take on a classic film, The Magnificent Seven is not an offender.  The original film with Yul Bruyner is now 56 years old, the Western genre is much better at remakes/reinventions than most (True Grit, for example), and this isn’t an attempt to update or override the classic.  The 1960 film is, itself, a reinterpretation of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, so unlike most remakes, this story has already lent itself to reinterpretation.  It’s a Magnificent Seven for a new generation, and while it’s not quite magnificent, it is enjoyable.

Denzel Washington;Chris Pratt;Ethan Hawke;Byung-hun Lee;Vincent D Onofrio;Manuel Garcia-Rulfo;Martin Sensmeier

With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns – Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.

How much does The Magnificent Seven of Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt resemble that of Yul Bruyner and Steve McQueen?  Very little.  There are plenty of nods to the film, but the character names are different, the town’s predicament is different, and our band of seven is decidedly more multicultural than the 1960 version (not a criticism). Just look at the casts and you’ll see the diversity bump:

The Magnificent Seven, Charles Bronson, Yul Bruyner, Steve McQueen
1960
magnificent-seven-2016-reviews
2016
For the record, that’s a Mexican bandit, an African-American “duly-sworn warrant officer”, a rogue Comanche, an Asian knife wielder, an Irishman, a ex-Confederate sniper with PTSD, and Vincent D’Onofrio who is just crazy (Pratt describes him as “a bear wearing human clothes”).  You can roll your eyes at the diversity, but it’s a strong ensemble of actors with extremely memorable characters, and I care a lot more about the quality of the acting and the character than I do the historical logistics of group assemblage.  The woman who goes to bring help (Haley Bennett) also plays a much stronger role in both the story and the fighting than in the 1960 film.

Haley Bennett, The Magnificent Seven

There’s real camaraderie among the Seven, and the actors are all clearly enjoying playing their roles to the hilt.  Denzel can often just play himself in films, but he creates a fully fleshed out character in Sam Chisolm.  A lot of people were concerned from the trailers that Chris Pratt was going to turn this into a comedy.  Look, Pratt can act (Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, performing acrobatics to try to cover Jurassic World‘s whopping plot holes).  He’s certainly funny in the film, but it’s part of his character’s personality, and most of the Seven enjoy cracking wise.  Ethan Hawke turns in the best performance I’ve seen from him in a long time, but there’s not a weak link in our group of motley crusaders.

Peter Sarsgaard, The Magnificent Seven

Peter Sarsgaard definitely gives you a villain to hate from the film’s opening scene in the mining baron Barton Bogue.  He’s got some great monologues and Sarsgaard plays him with a sort of laconic, self-assured power cum evil that makes you want him dead as badly as the town and the Seven (some of which have personal scores with Bogue).  So we have a great cast, great performances, a pretty strong script, and a lovely score from the late James Horner (his final, tragically).  So why isn’t this a better movie than it should be? The director: Antoine Fuqua.

Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, The Magnificent Seven

Actors and directors often form working partnerships, but I wish Washington wasn’t so tied to Fuqua.  Perhaps it’s because he directed Denzel to his long-overdue Best Actor Oscar for Training Day, but Fuqua is an average director at best with a penchant for making films that are overlong (sometimes agonizingly overlong in cases).  A better director would have tightened the film, because even though he does direct a magnificently choreographed war between the town and Bogue’s forces at the end that feels like old-school Western brought into the 21st Century, the film still leaves you squirming in your seat at 133 minutes.  Additionally, much of the punch of the film’s ending (no spoilers) is derailed by an overly precious coda that delays a wonderful credits sequence in which Elmer Bernstein’s classic theme is used in full-force for the first time.  Horner wove bits of it through the score, but never goes flat-out until the credits (much like Michael Giacchino treated his 2011’s Star Trek score).  It’s Horner’s best score since A Beautiful Mind in 2001, and makes his death in a plane crash last year all the more melancholy.

The Magnificent Seven, Ethan Hawke

Despite being an imperfect updating of the classic, The Magnificent Seven is still very much worth seeing, especially for fans of the Western genre.  It lacks strong direction, but ultimately the performances overcome the flaws, and the final battle is one for the ages.
7.75/10

The Magnificent Seven, Denzel Washington, Byung-hun Lee, Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio

4 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Magnifcent Seven (2016) *So Far So Good?*”

  1. Okay, okay, okay, you cinched the deal, I’ll definitely go and see this.

    I get that this is the remake of Magnificent Seven, and that the heroes are archetypes rather than searing character studies, but as I get older I’m growing more and more tired of same old same old and formula formula. It’s not political, I’d just rather look through a window than into a mirror, because I know what I look like by now.

    Diversity works for me, and is probably a good business model.

    Also I have no problem with a remake as long as it goes back to a common source instead of harping on the version that immediately preceded it. Next weekend is Miss Peregrine, but Magnificent Seven is now on my must-see list. Unless you recommend IMAX? I hear it’s only showing that way for a week, and I will rush out on your word.

    1. IMAX is in no way necessary. Deepwater Horizon is killing Peregrine in the reviews; I’d wish them both to be good, but I’ll see Deepwater first. The reason why the obvious diversity doesn’t come across as off-putting is because they made the characters memorable and put good actors in the role. The cinching point was Denzel not just phoning in a Denzel, but creating a bona fide Western character of his own. It’s frustrating in parts because if it was edited down, tighter, smoother in the direction, then I’d have given it another point. I will credit Fuqua for an epic Western shootout battle that delivered some classic, Western tropes, but delivered some powerful and memorable moments.

  2. Deepwater Horizon? Suit yourself. Stories of heroism in the face of real-life disasters can be great, and I plan to get to DH, but after Edward Scissorhands I’ve never missed the opening night of a Tim Burton movie, and I don’t plan to now. His time has come and gone, but not for me.

    Sorry to hear that Fuqua had to be so self-indulgent. I hesitate to really criticize a guy who’s an expert at a profession I wouldn’t be able to even begin to know how to perform, but he’s just not very good, is he? I don’t understand what Denzel gets out of their relationship. I wish Training Day had been better. The film should, at the very least, have been good enough to justify the uncomfortable experience of watching Denzel Washington play a psychopath.

    1. Well DH is at 90% right now and I can get my brother to go with me to that as he has a disturbing mancrush on Kurt Russell lol. Fuqua is not a good director, and I think Denzel feels loyalty for the Oscar win and he’s working with him again next in Equalizer 2. This, I would say, is Fuqua’s best film because I agree Training Day is exceedingly overrated.

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