Seven gunmen in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Byung-hun Lee
Rated: PG-13 (extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material)
The Magnificent Seven
By Matt Greene
This most recent re-telling of the ragtag group of rare-do-wells brought in to help an oppressed town is almost eye-rollingly predictable. Shockingly faithful to the 1960 western of the same name, The Magnificent Seven borrows more than just its predecessor’s name and plot. The paper-thin thematics, colorful characters, and emotional qualities are so familiar, it’s hardly a game-changing experience. But despite all of that, it’s filled with enough light humor and cowboy action to make it an imperfectly shallow good-time.
The eponymous seven are refreshingly represented by a diverse cast of personalities and ethnicities, whose differentiations are stronger than their character motivations. Leaders Pratt and Washington give almost lazy performances, with much of their normal charisma lost behind too-cool-for-school masculine posturing, while Sarsgaard’s villainous turn is a few clicks away from an empty barrel. However, the supporting cast all shine pretty bright. Hawke, Bennett, and Lee each have their own standout moments, but D’onofrio is the scene-stealer. In one of the few performances of the bunch in which out-of-the-box choices were made, he plays a wild mountain man who essentially serves as The Hulk in this “Avengers Go West” tale.
However, unlike the Marvel franchise or most other CGI tent-poles, Magnificent Seven harkens back to a time when practical action, death-defying stunts, and larger-than-life human heroes filled the silver screen. Its deja-vu-like commitment to cowboys on horses, beautifully vacant American scenery, and old-fashioned, small town stand-offs help it fit right alongside the old western marathon your grandfather would binge on Saturday afternoons. Far from groundbreaking, this throwback is still a straightforward, morally clear, and action-packed throwback of fun.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Magnificent Seven
By Cole Schneider
“Seven Samurai” (1954) is one of the all-time greats. The Japanese film borrowed heavily from American westerns in order to craft a samurai film, which even at 3.5 hours is more entertaining than any blockbuster this year. “Seven Samurai”, a story about a poor village that recruits (you guessed it!) seven samurai to help protect them from bandits, was remade in 1960 by John Sturges who moved it to the same west that inspired the original. Sturges’ movie was “The Magnificent Seven”, and while it doesn’t reach the brilliance of “Seven Samurai”, it remains a hallmark of the genre and a fun ensemble piece.
While that 1960 film was still firmly in the ‘this is a really good movie’ camp despite not holding up the greatness of its source material, it has spawned many copies since, each with diminishing returns. Films as diverse as “A Bug’s Life” and “Justice League” (purportedly; it’s not actually out until 2017) steal from the propulsive story of “Seven Samurai”. So 2016’s remake of 1960’s “The Magnificent Seven” was never going to be original—it’s a copy of a copy.
And it feels like it. It feels labored and it’s constantly straining for relevance, ultimately hoping that it has enough shootouts to hide its warts and dips into enough tones to be found partially successful by all potential viewers. Job well done there; it’s partially successful. With everyone acting like they’re involved in different films—Denzel is in a drama, Byung-hun Lee is in a martial arts movie, Chris Pratt is in a Chris Pratt movie—it’s D’Onofrio who finds the tone that works for me. He gives a silly but deceptive and affable turn.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars