Hey, a remake! You never see those anymore. Like… ever.
So yeah, if I know anything about remakes this is actually not the first time the story of The Magnificent Seven’s been told. Most know it’s a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, which was an American remake of the 1954 Japanese film, SEVEN SAMURAI. Um… yeah, I haven’t seen either, but I’ve always wanted to see SEVEN SAMURAI.
I’m looking at this movie and I’m thinking it’s going to be alright. Maybe nothing to write home about, but could be a fun little western. And you can’t deny the cast is pretty star-studded. Denzel Washington (THE EQUALIZER , TRAINING DAY , and MAN ON FIRE ), Chris Pratt (JURASSIC WORLD , GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY , and the TV show PARKS AND REC), Ethan Hawke (BOYHOOD , THE PURGE , and GATTACA ), Vincent D’Onofrio (JURASSIC WORLD, FULL METAL JACKET , and TV show DAREDEVIL), Byung-hun Lee (TERMINATOR GENISYS , the G.I. Joe movies, RED 2 ), and the list goes on. Now that I’m looking at it, this is a movie of reunions, isn’t it? Washington and Hawke, Pratt and D’Onofrio, kinda funny if you ask me.
Now for the crew. Directing is Antoine Fuqua. He’s done films like SOUTHPAW (2015), THE EQUALIZER, and OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (2013). This movie has two writers: Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto. Wenk has written THE EQUALIZER, THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), and THE MECHANIC (2011). Pizzolatto is pretty new to the writing scene, this being his film debut – congrats, dude – but he has done TV shows, mostly the highly popular TRUE DETECTIVE, but he also wrote a couple episodes of THE KILLING. While the film has two composers, one of whom Simon Franglen, who usually isn’t a composer at all, but does work in the music area of the industry, the other is the late amazing James Horner, making this his final film. Maybe not as mainstream popular as say, Hans Zimmer or John Williams, but he’s done some truly incredible work for some big, big movies. AVATAR (2009), TROY (2004), TITANIC (1997), BRAVEHEART (1995), THE LAND BEFORE TIME (1988), the list goes on and on. Finally, the cinematographer for the movie is Mauro Fiore. He’s worked on SOUTHPAW, THE EQUALIZER, AVATAR, yeah, holy shit this movie is a reunion-fest. In any case, may he rest in peace.
In any case, I think we could be seeing a quality movie. Maybe nothing great, I’m not really expecting that, but I think it could be fun and more than enjoyable. I guess we’ll see.
This is my honest opinion of: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
The small town of Rose Creek has been taken over by a rich and powerful man named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The moment the town congregates in the town church to debate what should be done about it, he comes in, burns the church down, and kills Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer), the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett). This spurs her to seek out anyone that might help her and her town drive out Bogue and his men. That help comes in the form of seven men: a truant officer named Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a suave gambler, Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a former Confederate sharpshooter named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a religious tracker, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Korean knife expert, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw, Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche hunter, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
Not bad. Not bad at all. The long and short is if you were looking for a movie with cowboys doing cowboy things, dual wielding pistols, dudes getting thrown through windows, drinking and laughing with some likable characters, that’s exactly what you’ll get. But if you’re looking for something new and innovative, I’d say you won’t get much bang for your buck.
As you can imagine, the talent is about as amazing as it looks. Washington is about as Denzel as he’s always been. Spouting wise words at a somber volume, occasionally with a smile that charms men and women alike, all while having a violent and mysterious past. You know, doing exactly what you hire the man to do. Pratt… shit, this man was born to be a cowboy. You could make the argument that’s exactly what he kind of was in GUARDIANS, an unpopular, yet charming outlaw wielding two guns alongside a group of other outlaws, but somehow this was equally fitting. Please, more westerns with Pratt. This was a cinematic gift.
Unfortunately, there’s one weakness in the characters that we were given. Because the cast is so extensive, I didn’t feel like we were given enough time to get to know them. At all really. With Washington and Pratt, you can kind of get away with that. They’re charismatic enough to be watchable with little depth to who they are. But characters like Goodnight, he just barely misses being in the same ball park as Sam and Josh. Hawke is a fine actor, don’t get me wrong, but what makes his character a miss for me is because he’s probably written to be the most interesting or sympathetic of the seven. A former Confederate sharpshooter, haunted by all the killing and violence, helps a Korean man struggling to adapt to western culture and treats him very well, even becoming close friends, there’s clearly a great character there. But because there’s seven main heroes, including a villain and supporting characters, Goodnight is given the most vague of reasons for his trauma. Now, this can be hit or miss for some audiences. You know, less is more, sort of mentality. For me though, a character this interesting and complex deserves more depth.
However, characters like Jack, Red Harvest, Vazquez, and Billy are too under-developed and definitely deserved some real screen time so we could get to know them. They sort of feel like they’re just there to round out the cast. I suppose you could argue that their banter makes up for it. I like how Josh and Vazquez are constantly giving each other shit and making fun of each other, or how Jack goads Red into speaking English. Those moments are admittedly pretty funny.
Another problem I had was the villain. At first, Bogue is built up to be a despicable guy. He scares the crap out of the kid, and then straight-up murders Emma’s husband Matthew (Matt Bomer) for trying to help an injured man and back-talking to him. Not only that, but murdering a bunch of other people that either try to fight back or flee the scene. And just before you think he couldn’t get any worse, he tells his men to let the bodies stay in the streets for a few days so the townspeople can stare at them for awhile. This was actually a pretty effective way to make the audience hate him. Here’s the problem. After that scene, he’s gone from the movie until the last half hour. None of that is built upon to make him more suave, or smart, or anything more than a glorified thug that got the most screen time.
Man, I feel like I’ve ripped into this movie more than talked about it’s good aspects. But I guess that’s the big thing about it. The good stuff is more like… what you’d expect anyway. If you make a western and you don’t get gun-slinging, wise-cracking action, then it essentially fails as a western. I don’t think this is a failure, but it’s not the most stand-out of its genre either, apart from it’s incredible talent. If you’re not looking for anything progressive or ground-breaking, I’d say you’ll do fine. But if you are, I might recommend the neo-western HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016), staring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges instead. As it is, I had enough fun with it to say that I’d be open to it. It’s no timeless tale, but it’s got enough humor and action to carry it through.
My honest rating for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: a strong 3/5