Hot Take: Another remade classic. It’s good… not a classic. Then again, how can you go wrong with Denzel Washington?
If you have remake/reboot fatigue, it’s fair. There’s been too many remakes and reboots at this point. The original The Magnificent Seven isn’t even really all that original considering it’s Western-style remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The original Seven also spawned numerous sequels which is another film trend causing serious fatigue amongst frequent moviegoers. Despite all of that, Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the 1960 classic isn’t good enough to be called a classic but it is good enough to overcome that fatigue this trend has injected into the cinematic experience.
How does it accomplish that? Easy. The cast is strong. Featuring Denzel Washington in the lead as Sam Chisolm, he rounds up a crew featuring Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier. In addition, Haley Bennett plays Emma Cullen, a woman who hires the Seven to help get her town back from Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a corrupt businessman who uses force to steal land. Sarsgaard’s villain is the weakest in the bunch but he’s dastardly enough for you to get behind the Seven in their righteous quest.
While The Magnificent Seven does a great job of capturing the feel of the classic Western style, there are hiccups. First, the violence is ramped up to a new level. The body count is high and no one is safe. If there’s going to be a Return of the Seven, the next one will have to include zombies or another recruiting effort to refill some open slots on the team. Second, the film’s length gives it a bloated feel. While it’s entertaining from beginning to end, there’s a few scenes that feel unnecessarily long. At 2 hours and 12 minutes, at best the film can be credited for being patient in its development of both plot and character but its more likely the feeling will be that its efforts are excessive.
Despite these drawbacks, Washington as “The Bounty Hunter” Sam Chisolm is a delight to watch. His chemistry with the other members of the Seven is perfect and the band of essentially “good” bad guys to help a town get its land back is hard to criticize. Pratt gets the majority of the screen time and does plenty to enhance the film as well. The addition of a woman — Bennett — almost makes it feel like The Magnificent Seven Plus One and it works. Overall, the film works and it’s a fun, action-packed ride that will have many audience members yelling, “Yee haw!”
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Haley Bennett’s Coming Out Party
We’re about to get a lot of Haley Bennett. Last year, she was one of the only bright spots of Hardcore Henry. The Magnificent Seven was the first of 4 roles Bennett will be taking on in 2016. There could be a fifth depending on how quickly Thank You For Your Service makes it to the big screen and next year, she’ll be in Terrence Malick’s Weightless which boasts a phenomenal cast. We’ll be seeing a lot of her and if The Magnificent Seven is any indication, that’s a good thing.
- A Powerful Trio
Washington, Hawke and Fuqua have worked together previously. This is the second time all three have worked together in the same film — Training Day was the previous effort — and third time Fuqua worked with Washington (The Equalizer was the second) and Hawke (Brooklyn’s Finest was the second). The three have proven that this is a winning combo and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it happen again in the future.
- Refreshing Updates
Fuqua preserves the old Western style but adds some necessary changes to make it feel like we’ve grown from the Westerns of the ’50s and ’60s. There’s people of color, a woman and a slightly different approach to the source material. It doesn’t always work but it surely is refreshing.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
There’s an opportunity for The Magnificent Seven to tighten up its storytelling. It doesn’t kill the film but it does keep it from being a classic.
- A Better Villain
From the opening, it’s hard to be overwhelmed by Sarsgaard’s performance as Bogue. He’s a bad dude but he’s more of a bully than scary. There’s strength in his numbers not in his stature. You never get the feeling if he ever gets into a one-on-one confrontation with any of the Seven, he’ll be able to hold his own.