The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Nic Pizzolatto & Richard Wenk

Anymore these days it’s all sequels, reboots and remakes. Or at least that is a lot of the complaining you hear from tired movie-goers, worn down by either seeing sequels made to movies they didn’t care about in the first place, or reboots and remakes of classic film franchises they held beloved in their youth, doomed to somehow ruin the original. With The Magnificent Seven, we see a remake of a remake. Yes, I’m am sure some know that the original 1960 The Magnificent Seven is a play on cinematic legend Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, often considered one of the best films ever made, but others may not be familiar. Now on the third iteration, it may seem I am arguing once again that the film is well-trodden material ripe for a letdown and a completely useless re-interpretation of a masterpiece whose heights of cinematic achievement will never be reached again. I’m not. There is plenty of room in the current movie landscape for something like The Magnificent Seven.

After mining baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) threatens the townsfolk of Rose Creek with stealing their land for what he wants to pay for it, widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) seeks the help of warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), and as many men he can find to help them save Rose Creek. Chisolm takes the job when he hears Bogue is involved, rounding up a rag tag team of mercenaries to help (Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). When they arrive, the “magnificent seven” find a group of rural farmers who don’t know how to fight. With a week to prepare for Bogue and his men once again descending upon Rose Creek, they must work double time to be ready to defend their turf.

There are many things at play here which make The Magnificent Seven a fascinating film. First and foremost is the lack of western genre films in today’s mainstream cinema. We are often graced with a major studio western once every year or two. The heyday is over for the genre, but there is definitely value to be found in it today. The script, co-written by True Detectives creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto, plays things fairly standard when it comes to genre, but by doing so it allows the character tropes to shine when performed by this awesome cast. There’s a bad guy who does bad things, there’s a group of good guys, each with unique quirks and questionable past morals, there’s a big fight, and then, well, you know how it ends. The Magnificent Seven does a great job at making room for 8 main characters (the Mag 7 plus Emma), and leaving enough room for each of them to have their signature moment and own defined personality to contribute to the proceedings.

Washington is his typical heroic self, though maybe even toned down a little bit which makes his leading role quietly effective. He never plays it too big. The largeness comes with Chris Pratt, who is full Chris Pratt here with comedic charm to spare. The remainder of the cast fills out quite nicely as well. After following the western playbook to a T for the greater part of the film, the climax really comes as the shining moment at the end. Director Antoine Fuqua manages to stage a very compelling and entertaining shootout which lasts a long time, but never feels unwarranted. The death toll and bullets used may be entirely unrealistic, but the scene is otherwise well choreographed and thought out, making for a exciting shootout and conclusion to the story.

The Magnificent Seven brings nothing new to the western genre, but seeing as the genre has laid dormant for many years now, it still feels fresh against the current options at the local multiplex. It doesn’t blaze any new trails, but it manages to mimic the well known tropes of the genre quite well, setting the stage for its actors to be the stars of the film. I’ve never understood why Hollywood makes so few westerns anymore, and perhaps I am in the minority when it comes to being fans of the genre today (which must be the case), but every few years they do make one, and it always seems to be entertaining. If more were made, surely there would be some letdowns, but I truly wish more films like The Magnificent Seven, which manages to be its own success while also clearly taking so much from the original film(s) and other westerns, were made these days.

*** – Good

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