The Magnificent Seven

Year: 2016
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard
Written by Andrew Garrison

‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1963) may very well be my all-time favorite western, an iconic classic inspired heavily by Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ (1954). When I heard about this remake being created, I broke down and wept passionately, or rather became quite annoyed.  Why would such a brilliant film need a remake?  Because it was made in the 1960’s and can bring in more money for some studio?  Then I reminded myself, there are far more upsetting things than a remake of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ going on. Such as the remake of ‘Memento; (2000).  All kidding aside, I wasn’t pleased about this remake, and even when the cast was set, I was still resisting.  By the time the trailer was officially released, I was willing to give the film a chance. I think almost every film should be given a chance to pass or fail based on the quality of the movie alone.

The plot of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is something you should know well even if you haven’t watched the original. It tells the story of a group of rogue individuals who unite to defend a town against a really bad dude and his men.  It has been used countless times, but it can still create a good story when you have talented characters behind it. As for this film, it isn’t flawless, but I have to admit for a remake, it was impressive. 

My biggest issue was Chris Pratt. I really like the actor in many things, but at times in this movie, his strong likable personality comes out too much. I no longer saw him as Josh Faraday, but as Chris Pratt! 

A few other characters were not clearly defined, and as with other films this year with a lot of characters, not everyone is going to get equal story time. If that was the case, the movie would be four hours long and not many people would love that. Still, I wish each character had another line or two to explain why they are there, and who they are.

I really can’t knock the premise because it is a remake, and so many other movies have used the same premise, likely inspired by either the original ‘Magnificent Seven’ or ‘Seven Samurai’. It is just a bit predictable. Then again, if you go into a remake expecting complete originality from its plot, you have chosen poorly.  

I have to say, despite my reservations about this film, I actually enjoyed it a great deal. It paid respect to the greatness of the original, but also found ways to make its own impact. The cast was very diverse, the action was crisp and sometimes quite strong. This is a pretty hard PG-13 film that some could even suggest should be rated R.

Antoine Fuqua is a talented director and you can tell this by his ability to show you violent scenes without overkill. They give you that sense of disgust, anger, sadness, and fear, but not in a grotesque fashion. That is exactly what I’d hope for with any film, but especially a remake of a classic like this. 

The film touches on various thing like gender equality, and the dangers of unchecked capitalism, and the souring of morality in the face of overwhelming greed, and it does this without being preachy about it. The classic motto of “show us, don’t tell us” applies wonderfully here. 

As for the cast, Denzel Washington was excellent, but when is Denzel ever terrible? Chris Pratt was good minus a few moments I discussed earlier.  I actually like Vincent D’Onofrio’s character which was especially colorful in mannerisms and language.  Seeing Ethan Hawke team up with Washington again was quite awesome, and Hawke was a perfect cast for his character.  Byung-hun Lee was also pretty solid in his role too. 

This film has some tough moments to watch, it uses language and makes jokes that other films wouldn’t dare try to pull off today, but I think it worked to create a more authentic, dirty, more rustic western. 

What I was dreading was a complete change from the original ending.  That today, certain things happen and don’t happen.  This film refuses to sugarcoat anything and it pays tribute to the original in fine fashion.

The villain is better than most movies I’ve seen this year.  You understand why he is such an awful human being, and he has a belief system within him which drives him to do heinous things, that is on display several times throughout the film.   

The set designs were quite beautiful, the cinematography, and attempts to keep the film grounded in both reality and rustic nature were very effective.  It wasn’t a flashy CGI film and nor should it have been. This film has everything you love about the Old West setting. The gunfights, the ideals of honor, lawless rogues, legendary lawmen, and good hearted women.  This was a legitimate western.

The ending is really intense and although the film is a slow burn for some, many appreciated the growing tension and the various stories coming together at the end.

Does this version of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ live up to or surpass the original? Of course not, it is a remake and that rarely happens. However, is it among the best remakes in recent history:  a film that is worthy of your time with great visceral action, a very good cast, beautiful cinematography, quality, directing, and musical score? Absolutely it is. This movie is among the best remakes I’ve ever seen.  If you can appreciate a classical film tone mixed with modern day action styles and diverse cast, this is a movie you definitely need go watch for yourself. 

Andrew’s rating: 7.8 out of 10 
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