By Jack Dignan
The original Magnificent Seven is considered by many to be one of the greatest westerns of all time. It's looked upon as being one of the all time greats. It is, itself, a remake, Americanising the Japanese classic Seven Samurai and transforming it into something able of standing on its own, not that Seven Samurai needed much help in that department as that too is iconic in its own right. But it does go to show that remakes, while they do get a lot of heat from time to time, can still be pretty damn good. This new take on The Magnificent Seven, once again, decides to shake things up a bit, adding onto the story and creating a new version of a classic tale, and it's a lot of fun.
We follow the story of a man named Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter travelling from town to town. It's amongst his travels that he runs into a woman named Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), whose husband was recently murdered and town overrun by notorious gunman Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his army of soldiers. In desperate need of help, Emma asks Chisholm to come protect her town, and while he is certainly interested, to do so, he must recruit an army of his own, and this army comes in the form of Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensnmeier). Together they are... The Magnificent Seven.
I am a big fan of the western genre, and putting together a cast like this into a new retelling of the Magnificent Seven storyline just seemed like a perfect idea, and it was directed by Antoine Fuqua no less, the man behind Training Day and Southpaw, amongst many others. The story has been revamped and intensified for the modern day audience, extending out the runtime, but adding in plenty of action to keep everybody entertained. Plus, it has the almighty lord and saviour Chris Pratt in it, so I can't really complain about that, now can I?
It is, essentially, a combination of everything I love about the western genre. There's more than a few shoot outs, some intense chase sequences, some classic, if not corny lines, and a dynamic and interesting cast that's racially diverse and very talented. The only downside to this film being a combination of everything I know and love is that, from time to time, the film does start to get a little bit tedious. It feels a bit been there done that, as if everything has been done in a thousand other films before, and it has, technically. I mean, it's not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. I rather enjoyed it actually, but it just doesn't really feel fresh, per say. Everything's been done to death, but when put together it feels like classic, old school western fun, and it's a hell of a good time.
Like previously mentioned, the cast for this film is extraordinary. Denzel Washington takes us on this daring and exciting adventure, and he is truly phenomenal, even if all of the depth his character has is provided in the final 10 minutes. Chris Pratt, while also underdeveloped, is once again brilliant. I just love this man in every single film he's in, and I will continue loving him till the day he dies, which, if he manages to keep giving performances as good as this one, hopefully never comes. His character is funny, likeable and quite the badass, and I loved everything about him, even if his introduction goes for a little bit too long.
But let's not let the supporting cast get overshadowed by these two heavy hitters. Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio are two other highlights from this movie, both giving performances that are simultaneously exactly what you'd expect and nothing like you've seen before. D'Onofrio's voice in this movie is pretty much the polar opposite of the voice he uses in the Netflix Daredevil show, and I'm not sure why that's worth mentioning, but it just is. Byung-hun Lee and Hayley Bennett also serve as noteworthy members of the cast, each giving pretty solid performances, despite not too much screen-time.
There's nothing about this movie that I would necessarily describe as being bad, but with the exception of the very talented cast and perhaps the props and costume department (and let's throw the set designers in there too for good luck), I wouldn't consider anything about this movie to be fantastic. From the writing to the directing to the cinematography, everything is merely fine. It's not terrible, but not great. You won't leave this movie thinking to yourself 'wow they made yet another classic movie out of the same storyline,' because really, it is just the same storyline. There's nothing new or special to be found here, but it sure is fun to watch.
To sum up, The Magnificent Seven takes the classic western tale, throws a little more action and Chris Pratt into the mix, and spits out an immensely entertaining, action packed western that looks and feels authentic and is full of terrific performances. It's nothing special, but it is extremely entertaining.
3 1/2 Stars