The Magnificent Seven
Dir: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Luke Grimes, Peter Sarsgaard, and Haley Bennett
3.25 out of 5.00
The Magnificent Seven
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS ~9/29/16
In 1960, veteran director John Sturges was tasked with taking some of the most recognizable actors in Hollywood and collaborating on an updated remake of an Akira Kurosawa film called “Seven Samurai”. That film would become the classic western “The Magnificent Seven”. The film starred Yul Brynner who was coming off two lauded films, “The Ten Commandments” and “The King and I”. It also starred the experienced, yet not established, Steve McQueen who would later make “The Great Escape” and “Bullitt”. Rounding out the film was Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and James Coburn. Not a bad cast to make a movie with during this time.
While the 1960 version of the film was done only six years after Akira Kurosawa’s classic, it should be noted that the Japanese master filmmaker approved of Sturges’ Western. Director Antoine Fuqua is tasked with updating this film fifty-six years after the original film was released. Kurosawa is one of the most influential filmmakers in history; his film “Seven Samurai” has been copied, remade, and updated hundreds of times. How could an updated version of a film, which was already a remake, work in today’s remake saturated film world? Because stories of good versus evil and the journey of heroes facing insurmountable odds can still be an interesting element when done the right way, even when it’s been done so many times that even the most novice of film fan can see the path of the story a mile away. The 2016 version of “The Magnificent Seven” is entertaining and fun many times throughout; it's as mediocre of a popcorn movie as one could be.
The small town of Rose Creek, populated with hard working families, is under the brutal control of a greedy industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Faced with the option of leaving town or meeting death, the townspeople employ the services of a bounty hunter named Chisolm (Denzel Washington). Needing more help than the townspeople can offer, Chisolm employs the services of six other men: a gambler named Faraday (Chris Pratt), an outlaw named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a famous gunman named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his knife-wielding associate Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a famous hunter named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), and a lone Native American named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
While the locations and characters have changed just a bit with Antoine Fuqua's version of the film, the structure to the original films that have come before it are still very much intact. Justice needs to be served and the innocent need to be protected. Fuqua does a great job introducing these characters; even the villain, who is offered the very first introduction, is provided with a startling and violent scene that makes the viewer despise him. This helps warrant the vigilante mentality of getting bounty hunters, gamblers, and outlaws together to fight the good fight. Still, Fuqua does not shy away from displaying the character flaws of some of the seven justice-seeking men, specifically with group leader Chisolm, who plays all of his emotional cards close to the chest.
Denzel Washington is great; he provides a swagger and charisma that shines brightest when the actor is allowed to move within a scene. Washington doesn't need to say much, but the little mannerisms that the actor brings adds a sense of mystery, and also danger, with every deliberate move. Chris Pratt provides much of the humor. The actor is best when he is allowed freedom with the character, but he also brings a natural likability to a character that isn't the most righteous of the group. Another standout in the film is Ethan Hawke who plays a prideful but tormented gunfighter. The talented Hawke has a knack for making these kind of secondary characters better than they should be.
Fuqua composes a film that is entertaining and fun, a film that goes the extra mile with characters and scenarios to make it a crowd-pleasing experience. However, this also moves the film far away from being anything remotely memorable; in fact, in some instances it makes the film rather boring. It's no better than the western made in 1960 except for supplying more action scenes, and the narrative is so straightforward that all the brilliant touches of character development and narrative composition found in Akira Kurosawa's original work is mostly glossed over. So yes, many will be entertained and many will have a great time with this film. However, some may find themselves wondering why they bothered remaking it at all?