“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of John Sturges’ acclaimed Western released in 1960 which itself is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” released in 1954—neither of which I’ve seen. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke, among others, this new iteration of the acclaimed hero’s tale is about a mining town called Rose Creek that is terrorized by an evil businessman named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Saarsgard) who makes the townspeople sell their land cheaply and murders Emma Cullen’s husband (Haley Bennett) in the process. Devastated yet enraged, Emma assigns a bounty hunter named Sam Chisolm (Washington) to recruit six other well-intentioned outlaws in order to save Rose Creek from Bogue’s clutches. From the trailers and marketing, I went in expecting a fun throwback to classic Westerns and I’m happy to say that the latest film does not disappoint.
First off, “The Magnificent Seven” works on a technical level. In addition to being well lit and well shot (no pun intended) for the most part, the film relies heavily on practical effects—which I’m not saying are necessary for all blockbusters—but to know that people actually put time and effort into this $95 million remake of a remake is absolutely noteworthy. Likewise, “The Magnificent Seven” has a surprising amount of heart that’s absent from many remakes nowadays, and that fact is especially present in the film’s haunting opening sequence as well as its more intense action scenes; they are just that much more gripping because of it. As for the other technical aspects of the film, I loved some of its editing choices and am happy that it put James Horner’s final score to good use. All these elements combined give the film a much-needed old timey, Western feel.
“The Magnificent Seven” has top-notch performances. Obviously, I mostly want to discuss the main seven who all have great on-screen chemistry together. Notably, Chris Pratt’s performance in this film brings his signature charm while also highlighting a sense of mystery in two of the scenes. Although he would sometimes revert back to his usual Pratt-isms, his role is mostly solid throughout.
Ethan Hawke’s role was arguably the most developed main character and seeing him in an another Antoine Fuqua film with Denzel Washington was a nice touch. I don’t want to forget to mention Byung-hun Lee as the group’s knife expert and Vincent D’Onofrio as its big, crazy guy, both of whom handle their insane roles in the film with ease. The least developed main character was Martin Sensmeier’s Native American character, who was still interesting nonetheless.
Where most modern remakes just want to dive right into the action, “The Magnificent Seven” takes its sweet time introducing our heroes and showing us why we should care about them. I will say that the first remake didn’t have a diverse cast, probably because it was released in the ’60s. Fortunately, however, this remakes does. As for Haley Bennett, I’m not surprised that not many reviews mentioned her since the film doesn’t truly develop her character Emma Cullen until the third act; in fact, I wish we learned more about Emma’s marriage—otherwise, why should we care if this widow avenges her dead husband? Peter Saarsgard’s villain was also disappointing considering how well he’s introduced before becoming a rather generic villain when we meet him again later on.
Finally, the films I love the most are the ones that know what they want to be and “The Magnificent Seven” knows that it wants to be a fun throwback film despite being unnecessarily cheesy at times. Many consider Antoine Fuqua one of the best popcorn flick directors and this film is no exception. He expertly directs the film’s action sequences as well as its more dialogue-driven moments; however, I do wish the pacing was better in its 172-minute runtime to fix development issues. I also didn’t receive the sense of satisfaction from the last five to 10 minutes that I was hoping for.
Overall, “The Magnificent Seven” is a great summer blockbuster that isn’t actually a summer blockbuster. Anyone looking for a fun time at the theater will not be disappointed with this film.