Magnificent Seven Review
"The Magnificent Seven" maybe a remake of a 1960 Western of the same name, but even that movie was a riff off of something else. There was a film that came out in 1954 called "The Seven Samurai" and I don't think takes a genius to make the connection between the 1950's samurai film and the 1960 Western. The idea of seven (or more) misfits coming together for the greater good is a riff that happens in movies more often than not. With "13 Assassins," "The Three Amigos" and even "Galaxy Quest" as prime examples. An actual remake like this really was something I figured would come around sometime.
The film reunites director Antoine Fuqua, and actors Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, all of whom worked together on "Training Day." Together, they work with Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard and Lee Byung-hun. If you know Fuqua's films and even if you've seen "Training Day," Fuqua usually makes gritty and dark fair. So I was pretty surprised when I saw just how lighthearted, funny and entertaining "The Magnificent Seven" actually was. Sure, its as bloody and violent as any Fuqua movie, but he seems to be having more fun with this process. The film rides on the charisma of Washington, Pratt, D'Onofrio, and Hawke. They also gel well with Lee Byung-hun and also Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier. Sarsgaard also is clearly having a good time playing the film's villain, something he's mastered very well over the course of his career. It also so hammy and stylized that I almost expected him to twirl the mustache growing on his face.
Sarsgaard plays a corrupt billionaire industrialist that forcing people to lose their jobs and their possessions. Anybody who stands up to him is killed, and no retribution is in sight. Sarsgaard's Bogue has the sheriff in his pocket and large numbers of henchmen at his disposal. When Emma Cullen's (Haley Bennett) husband is killed (a nice cameo by Matt Bomer), she hires Sam Chisolm (Washington) a warrant officer to stop Bogue. Chisolm has a past with Bogue, so he decides to help Cullen and enlists the whose-who of Western movie stereotypes, featuring a gambler (Pratt), a sharp-shooter (Hawke), a weird tracker (D'Onofrio), a Mexican outlaw (Garcia-Rulfo), a Native American warrior (Sensemeier), and an Asian knife-wielder (Lee). The movie is really that simple.
For the most part, "The Magnificent Seven" works. As I stated above, all the actors bring their A-game and they certainly try to get this to land. The film is funny at times, even harrowing and exciting at times. But, at the end of the day, its just Hollywood product. It doesn't illuminate anything in any real way. It doesn't use the Old West for anything special, the backdrop doesn't connected to Western history or metaphor. It's just simply that, a backdrop for the movie. The actors make it fun and thrilling; their tongues completely in their cheeks. But nothing much beyond that. I will also say that I am glad that Fuqua didn't try to make this into the next big expanded universe brand. You don't know how refreshing it is to see a blockbuster that has a beginning, middle and end. What was aggravating was the movie had an identity crisis of trying to decide if it was going to be a fun Western action movie, or a serious drama. Not being able to decide between the two strikes a offbeat tone in the film.
But its no surprise that the film crushed it at the box office its opening weekend. Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt have both proven to be capable leads and they tear through the scenery here. Its an entertaining movie and I am very glad that I saw it. If you are expecting a Western full of action, drama, damsels in distress, a few good one-liners and some good, old-fashion, Western shootouts then "Magnificent Seven" will no doubt fill the bill perfectly. Its just not anything beyond that service.
FINAL GRADE: B