There really aren’t enough westerns these days. Which is probably why I enjoyed the updated version of The Magnificent Seven, despite all of the obvious cliches and one-dimensional characters.
Before we begin, let’s not get caught up in the “oh, no, not another remake” crap — the original Magnificent Seven was itself a remake of Akira Kirusawa’s Seven Samurai — a reminder that remakes aren’t exactly a new Hollywood trend (it’s just gotten much, much worse…ugh).
This Magnificent Seven stars Denzel Washington, reuniting him with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua (as well as co-star Ethan Hawke). Denzel is Sam Chisolm, our designated “man in black,” a Kansas lawman who both is black and dresses in all black. Now, I’m an expert on the wild west — and yes, I’ve seen Blazing Saddles — but I’m not sure African American men were being appointed — you know what? It’s Denzel, and nobody questions Denzel. Moving on.
While out collecting bounties, Chisolm is hired by a fiery widow (Haley Bennett) to track down the man that murdered her husband in cold blood and forces her town to live in fear. Pretty much same set-up from the original. So instead of tracking down and arresting (or just flat out killing) the rest of the hooligans on his list he decides to recruit them to help defend this town. It’s kinda what Suicide Squad should have been. Kinda.
Under Fuqua’s guidance, The Magnificent Seven doesn’t do anything to separate itself from the original, nor does it do anything to justify its existence. It’s full of cliches, none of the characters are truly fleshed out, and the ones that do get more attention than others aren’t fully explored. There’s a lot of suggesting past history and experiences, none of which are used to give a lot of background.
In fact, the movie really does nothing to show why they are so “magnificent” — badasses, sure, but magnificent? Meh.
Despite all of that? It’s still pretty enjoyable to watch. The cast is solid. Denzel Washington? Ethan Hawke? Vincent D’Onofrio? Chris Pratt? (Is it me, or does Pratt seem to be stuck playing the same character in every movie lately?) Again, he’s fun to watch and his schtick hasn’t worn off quite yet. It’s a racially diverse cast as well, with Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier rounding out the western avengers.
The film has a nice blend of action and comedy. Thankfully the filmmakers were able to avoid forcing in a love interest. Fuqua plays it pretty safe, not taking nearly enough chances with the characters as he could have, but it’s enough to keep it fun for most of the too-long running time — clocking in at 2 hours 16 minutes. And oh yeah. .. it’s violent — lots of bullets and blades and blood and a Gatling gun (see, all of the western cliches are present.)
Unfortunately, you have to wait nearly that whole damn time to hear the rousing theme song. What’s up with that?
The villain, as played by Peter Sarsgaard, is about as one-dimensional as a villain gets. He has a few scenes where he sulks and stares with his beady eyes. He does enough to establish why you should root for him to die, just nothing that will be remembered.
The Magnificent Seven is flawed and full of cliches but the cast is fun enough to make it an enjoyable trip to the wild, wild west — even if there’s nothing new to see here.