Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven is a film that manages to recapture the feel of the Western genre in the form of a Hollywood popcorn flick, but it doesn’t do anything incredibly new or innovative in its content. It’s the same done to death “rag-tag scoundrels team-up to defend the innocent villagers” plot that was ironically popularized by the original 1960 film, being itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. However, this film recognizes this fact and instead focuses on what it can do with the source material: just be a good film. And thanks to excellent production values, a talented cast and some amped-up Western shooting moments, The Magnificent Seven ends up being a rewarding time for both modern audiences and classic Western fans alike.
It’s the 1870s and a dark shadow has spread over the tiny mining town of Rose Creek. Ruthless businessman and capitalist Bartholomew Bogue (a disgustingly slimy Peter Sarsgard) has claimed ownership to resources within the town’s mines and threatens to drive its citizens off their own land in the name of his desire for fortune. After he and his hired mercenaries gun down some locals who try to oppose him, one of the dead men’s wives, Emma (played by Haley Bennett) decides enough is enough. She enlists the help of a bounty hunter named Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to defend their town, who in turn recruits six other men to aid his quest. A diversified team that includes gambler/gunsman Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), former Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheux (Ethan Hawke), soft-spoken mountain man/tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Mexican desperado Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche arrow-wielder Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). It’s up to the seven of them to rally the townspeople and mount their defense against the onslaught of an entire army, in spectacular gun-slinging fashion.
The plot to this film is about as straightforward as you can get, and there’s very little twists or turns to the events that transpire. However, it is through the performances of every actor that the story never comes across stale. From Washington’s stoic non-nonsense attitude to Pratt’s wise-cracking charm to D’Onofrio’s transitions from gentle to enraged fighter, they all feel like unique individuals, each with their sense of personality to them. My personal favorite goes to Hawke’s, who adds a sense of pathos to his character Robicheux , a man haunted by his time in the war to the point that his skills with a rifle are diminishing. Unfortunately, the majority of emotional depth given to our heroes is fair-to-above average at best, and the screentime they all receive could have been divided a bit more evenly, with one or two characters feeling a bit sidelined. But the interactions we do get with them make for some fun bonding moments between characters and audience, making us care for their individual fates in the eventual showdown.
At first, I was afraid The Magnificent Seven would put too much focus on its action sequences, jumping from one shootout to the next with the story being treated as an afterthought. Luckily the film takes its time building up to each gunfight, putting focus on the relationships between our heroes as they formulate a plan to defend the town. Most notably, playful banter shared between Chisolm and Faraday, as well as the former’s history with Robicheux, a chemistry that dates back to the Washington and Hawke’s past collaboration in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day. That being said, you do get the sense that these moments are done more for the sake of driving the plot forward than building on any real development within our main cast. However, when the gunfights go down, they go all out, with Fuqua showing his prowess in the action department and making each gunshot/dynamite blast hit home. It’s a true callback to the Western fights of old brought into the modern era, never crossing the line into iconic status but will still leave a smile on your face as it unfolds.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
The Magnificent Seven is not all that “magnificent” story-wise, but then again simplicity doesn’t necessarily equal bad. It’s the presentation that made the original film stand out, and while this reboot never reaches those “Culturally Significant” heights, it achieves its goal of being a damn-good action film. It’s a firestorm of cultural diversity firing pistols, shotguns and explosives across the Wild West, and most importantly, it’s just plain fun. Not to mention proof that the Western genre is still alive and well after so many years.