Late Movie Review: ‘The Magnificent Seven’
Plot: When corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) seizes the town of Rose Creek and kills several of its inhabitants, widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) takes it upon herself to save the town. Determined to see justice done, Emma seeks the help of noted bounty hunter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington). Knowing Bogue will soon be back with an army, Chisholm nonetheless takes the job. He soon enlists the help of six men, including gambler Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), assassin Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and exiled Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) to prep the town for an all or nothing showdown.
Review: I want to say upfront that I’ve never seen the 1960 classic directed by John Sturges starring Steve McQueen and Yul Brenner. As such I have no basis of comparison as to whether or not the 2016 version is better or worse than the original. Consequently, I’m left judging director Antonie Fuqua’s interpretation on its own merits.
And how is Fuqua’s updated version? Pretty good actually.
While The Magnificent Seven doesn’t have the deep subtext of say Unforgiven or The Outlaw Josey Wales, it’s by no means forgettable dreck like 1974’s Alien Thunder starring Donald Sutherland. No I’d say The Magnificent Seven falls somewhere in the Young Guns category. It’s entertaining but not particularly memorable or nuanced. And it doesn’t pretend to be, which makes the film all the more enjoyable.
Nick Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk’s script doesn’t break any new ground here. Greedy and murderous tyrant tries to rob the little man of his dignity and land. Upstart widow tracks down some less than savory characters to save the town. One of the seven has an “unexpected” hidden history with the tyrant that’s predictably revealed in the third act. A battle ensues. The survivors ride off into the sunset. Very straightforward and predictable but nonetheless entertaining for all its clichés.
The direction is workmanlike. Fuqua goes for a very 1960s style Western flair here which I think is by design. It’s replete with dusty streets, gunfights with occasionally too much slo-mo, beautiful sunsets, and even the classic scene of a man in black (Washington) walking into a bar where all conversation suddenly ceases. I’ve always been a fan of Fuqua, who reunites here with actors Hawke and Washington (Training Day). I kind of liken The Magnificent Seven to Fuqua’s 2004 film King Arthur, a severely underrated movie. Fuqua took a novel approach to the movie, injecting a Roman Empire aspect into the familiar Arthurian legend that made it feel fresh and new. While The Magnificent Seven doesn’t quite reach those heights, there is a freshness and familiarity with this version that will feel like a welcome shot of smooth whiskey to admirers of classic Westerns.
What makes The Magnificent Seven work is the titular seven themselves. All of them have great chemistry. D’Onofrio steals every scene he’s in as the God-fearing, funny, and frequently violent tracker Jack Horne. Hawke meanwhile brings the most gravitas to his role as Goodnight Robicheaux, a man whose reputation precedes him but is tortured by dreams warning of his death if he raises his hands in violence again. Chris Pratt is well…he’s Chris Pratt. The role of Faraday-a gambling, hard-drinking ladies man who’s as quick with a gun as he is a with joke-was tailor made for the dude. It’s Chris Pratt at his Chris Pratt-iest. However, it is Denzel Washington who leads his six compatriots, and this movie, to perfection. Washington’s Sam Chisholm captivates whenever he’s on screen. Every scene drips with subtext whether it’s a conversation about the past with Goodnight or Sam’s insincere attempt to hand over his gun to one of Bogue’s men. All I know is I need more Denzel Washington as a cowboy in my life.
On the negative side, Sarsgaard’s Bogue is a pretty weak villain. He’s a psychopath with a chip on his shoulder who resents people like the Rockefellers. His performance at times borders on comical, so much so that I almost expected him to start twirling his mustache. Haley Bennett’s character is very one-dimensional, although to Bennett’s credit she does the best with what she’s given. This also happens to be Oscar winning composer James Horner’s (Titanic, Braveheart) last score, as he tragically died in a plane crash last year. Unfortunately, Horner’s score is somewhat uneven, at times reminiscent of the original’s themes, other times overly bombastic to the point of being grating. Also with a 133 minute run-time, The Magnificent Seven is slightly too long. Fuqua could have cut an additional ten minutes of this film and been fine.
Despite leaning on tried and true Western tropes and a simplistic plot, The Magnificent Seven still succeeds as a film due mostly to it’s seven brothers in arms. It’s shot fairly well with the final gunfights delivering in a big way. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As Westerns go you could do a lot worse than The Magnificent Seven.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
My rating: 7/10
Would I: A) Buy this movie B) Accept as a gift C) Burn on site Answer: B
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