The Magnificent Seven Movie Review
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Denzel Washington leads a team of gunfighters on an impossible mission to save a small town from a greedy businessman in The Magnificent Seven also starring Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, and Peter Sarsgaard. Is this movie a fun action movie that respects the western genre or has director Antoine Fuqua lost his touch?
Before there was The Avengers, The Expendables, and even The Dirty Dozen, there was The Magnificent Seven. The original movie was released in 1960 and starred Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Eli Wallach. It was one of the first films that put together a powerful all-star cast filled with the greatest action stars of the time. Now the concept itself wasn’t original as The Magnificent Seven was actually inspired by the 1954 film Seven Samurai directed by legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. The premise of a rag tag group of heroes thrown together to help the innocent that is such a versatile story that according to Zack Snyder, it’s happens to be the inspiration of next year’s biggest blockbuster, Justice League. Hell, if you analyze it, even Pixar’s A Bug’s Life follows the same formula.
Now one of the biggest things in entertainment that people like to bitch about today is that Hollywood has run out of ideas and remakes everything. Now while I can agree with that to a certain degree, I can look at it from a different perspective and appreciate how some filmmakers are inspired by the movies they love and their desire to tell the story to a new generation. Think about this: ask a typical millennial if they want to watch a movie starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. I guarantee the majority of the responses will be, “Who?” Now ask those same group of perspective theatergoers if they want to watch the same movie, but instead it stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. I think you already know the answer.
So whether you like the original or have never even seen it, it brings us to the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and a whole bunch of others. While the premise of this movie is the same as the original and some scenes are recreated like the “Knife to a gunfight scene,” this version as a whole stands on its own. In this movie, instead of a Mexican village being terrorized by bandits, a small farm community in California is having its land stolen from them and its citizens murdered by a greedy businessman (Peter Sarsgaard) who wants to mine the entire area for gold. After her husband is shot in cold blood in the middle of town, a young woman named Emma (Haley Bennett) goes off into the wild west looking for help. She finds Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washinton), a duly sworn warrant officer from Wichita who is extremely talented with a pistol and has the bravery to back up the skills. Moved by her desperate cry for help, Chisolm recruits a team of men with special skills who accept the impossible mission of taking on an entire army to save the town.
I really had a great time with this movie. Now while I do love the nostalgia of the original, this version had a bit more personality and humor to it that made it extremely more enjoyable. Plus when you watch the original, many things like the stunts just don’t hold up. Most of those fighting and death scenes are a bit cheesy and over acted. But what I really appreciated the most about the 2016 The Magnificent Seven was that even though it was “modernized,” it still felt like a classic western. Everything from the majestic shots of the scenic landscapes to the musical score felt ripped out of the 1960s. Many times throughout the movie, my screening audience was quite vocal with their laughter, cheers, and applause.
What makes the movie truly come to life is the personalities of the entire cast, especially the “Seven.” Denzel Washington leads the rag-tag band of gunfighters as Sam Chisolm. His character is directly inspired by Yul Brynner’s performance of Chris Larabee Adams in the original. If you’re a fan of Denzel, then you won’t be disappointed. Chris Pratt plays Josh Faraday, a bit of a smooth-talking drunkard who is a quick shot and loves magic card tricks. Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee play Goodnight Robicheaux and Billy Rocks. They are a dynamic duo. Robicheaux is a war vet master sniper and Billy is more lethal with a knife than a gun. Vincent D’Onofrio plays Jack Horne, a huge, soft-spoken mountain man who is deadly with a hatchet, but has a big heart. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier round out the team as Vasquez and Red Harvest. Vasquez is a Mexican Outlaw that Chisolm decides to recruit instead of claim the bounty on his head and Red Harvest is an Indian warrior who left his tribe who is an expert archer. While each character can be compared to the previous Magnificent Seven movies and sequels, this cast makes them their own. And while I do love the original cast, I cared more for this team. They make you laugh and cheer, but they also break your heart by the end of the film. To me, the cast is the ultimate positive of the movie.
Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen was equal parts beautiful, independent, and strong. Even though she was desperate to save her town, she wasn’t a damsel in distress. I really liked her. I can’t wait to see her in another film. I really can’t say too much negative of the movie, except for the villain. Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue. Thank god he didn’t have a lot of screen time as the character was cliche and dull. He was the typical bad guy you’ve seen countless times in Westerns and even superhero movies. And I’m sorry to Peter, but he lacked charisma in his performance, he was more of a rich asshole than threatening menace. He played a better bad guy in Green Lantern than in this movie and that movie wasn’t very good. I’m glad that this character was really only in the beginning and ending scenes as the film concentrated more on its biggest strength, the Seven.
Known mostly from his drama and action movies like Training Day and The Equalizer, director Antoine Fuqua uses his experiences to bring a really cool, action-packed, and fun western to theaters. You could tell he has a love of the genre and it shows up on screen in much of the same way as Quentin Tarantino’s in Django Unchained. The Magnificent Seven is one of the most fun times I had at the movies this year.
I really had a great time with The Magnificent Seven. Other than a weak villain, I thought the movie was a really solid western. The movie is jam packed with plenty of humor, awesome stunts, and great action sequences. The ensemble cast was great. Of course Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt shine, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the performances of Vincent D’Onofrio and Haley Bennett. Everything about movie felt like a classic western from the broad scenic landscapes to the musical score. If you’re looking for a fun time at the movies, then The Magnificent Seven is worth checking out.