The Magnificent Seven, 2016.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Byung-Hun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard and Matt Bomer
Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.
Some movies are just dead on arrival, and The Magnificent Seven is one of those movies in ways. It’s a remake of a beloved classic film that already took inspiration from an Akira Kurosawa classic, that doesn’t offer up anything new or interesting besides diversifying the titular entourage to fit the times. That isn’t a bad thing at all though, as Native Americans, Asians, and Mexicans in the mix all allow opportunities for director Antoine Fuqua to incorporate in a mixture of weapons and different fighting styles to keep the action fresh, along with different personalities. At the end of the day however, if nothing worthwhile is done with that concept, that gesture alone probably doesn’t warrant resurrecting yet another classic from the grave.
As a result, watching The Magnificent Seven can be a chore. It does have its redeeming qualities that I will get to in a little bit, but the majority of the overly long running time spanning 2+ hours is spent watching characters that never actually go through any development or reveal anything interesting about themselves, interact with each other. The cast cannot be faulted considering that they make the best of all the one-liners and over-the-top pieces of dialogue they are given; there’s just nothing magnificent going on here. So when you factor in that the entire middle portion of the film features the ragtag heroes mingling among each other, it’s hard not to get a little restless with anticipation for the humongous extended action sequence that is clearly being dangled in front of you like a carrot.
Thankfully, as previously mentioned, actors like Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke all have the experience and acting chops to bring some level of fun and engagement to their characters. We have been watching Denzel tactically use firearms and dispose of fools for years now, so the sight of him as a gunslinger shrouded in black and pulling off trick shots while hanging off of horses feels natural and is an awesome sight to behold. Sticking with what we would expect from Chris Pratt, he also injects a lot of humor into the film as he uses magic tricks as a diversion against his enemies, while Vincent D’Onofrio gets to humorously steal some scenes looking reminiscent to a human bear. Byung-Hun Lee is able to pull off the most impressive kills as he springs into action up close and personal with his deadly knife expertise. Meanwhile, the closest thing the movie has to a complex character is Ethan Hawke as a Confederate marksman dealing with the aftermath of the Civil War, although not much is actually gone into this at all leaving the question, why even bother?
Empty writing and characterization aside, The Magnificent Seven benefits from typically reliable director Antoine Fuqua successfully able to stage some go-for-broke action sequences that make the most of the basic ‘defending the town’ plot. Without spoiling which characters, even the heroes have some unexpectedly way over-the-top deaths that heighten the stakes even if you really aren’t feeling any emotion for them. Everyone on the roster also gets their fair share of applause worthy kills, although Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt obviously get the most screen-time, along with some more meatier moments toward the end of the movie.
Fuqua also loves capturing some beautiful landscapes with some excellent cinematography on display. There are multiple widescreen shots of legions of generic bad guys marching through empty deserts on horseback with the hot sun scorching them from above. Sometimes taking in the sights is just as much entertaining as watching some guy getting shot and flying back through a glass window out of a shop. It should also be mentioned that this is the last film composed by the now deceased James Horner, and as you would expect the soundtrack is just fine with a number of homages to the original theme and tunes from the classic.
Even with all of the negatives laid out here, I also cannot say that there is anything outright terrible about The Magnificent Seven. If anything, it is just incredibly formulaic and checking all of the boxes required for a mainstream blockbuster, but surprisingly it doesn’t bother me much here considering that the direction, cast, and cinematography are all rock solid. No one is going to remember this movie, but it’s hard not to walk away even mildly entertained by the experience. The action especially in the last 30 minutes is outstanding and excellently choreographed, featuring little to no CGI.
I’m also just a sucker for watching Chris Pratt act like a smart ass.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★