I’ve heard some pretty kind things about Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven. Some say it is the modern retelling of a classic that The Lone Ranger and The Legend of Tarzan tried and failed to be. Based on the Western from 1960 – which itself was essentially “Seven Samurai in the Old West” – it seems to be a lot better than it should have been, at least according to my most trusted fellow critics (and by “fellow” I naturally mean people who are actually a lot more successful and well-known than I).
The idea is simple enough. The year is 1879, a cold and greedy business man named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, hamming it up something marvelous) lays siege on a small mining town called Rose Creek, with big plans for the land, and kills any villager who dares defy him, including one Mathew Cullen (Matt Bomer).
Cullen’s wife Emma, played by Haley Bennett, takes it upon herself to look for help and rides off along with Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) to seek out their liberators. This is where an intimidating bounty hunter named Sam Chislom (Denzel Washington) enters the picture and as you might infer from the movie’s 1800’s setting, his skin pigmentation doesn’t go entirely unnoticed.
After some persuasion, Chislom agrees to assist Emma and gathers a team of colorful misfits with their own personal skills and weapons of choice. Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a charismatic gambler who’s good with dynamite, is first to join the troop. Then comes a talented gunman eloquently named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke). Next is a lethal knife-thrower named Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a tracking expert named Jack (Vincent D’Onofrio), a warrior of the Comanche tribe called Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and sixth but not least, a wanted Mexican known simply as Vasquez. No, he is not played by Rob Schneider.
This probably goes without typing, but when the team is finally assembled, there is enough sparring and funny dialogue exchanges to go around. My favorite member was probably Faraday, not only because the actor is just so impossible to hate.
When it comes to what the film got wrong, most of the complaints are directed at its pacing and the fact that it fails to compare to the original when it comes to being, as it were, magnificent. I was never too piqued by these flaws, however. I dare say I had fun with the film at times, genuinely so (which mattered a lot to me since some of our most recent movie-Westerns include the vomitously stupid A Million Ways to Die in The West and, as previously addressed, The Lone Ranger).
Please note that my perspective on this film is different from that of most critics who have reviewed it. I never saw the original Magnificent Seven and I was absent during the day in film school when they screened Seven Samurai. I was, however, lucky enough to be there the following Friday when a girl who has clearly chosen the right path in life spoke of how confounded she was that her friend, a graduate from the same university, could have told her Seven Samurai was a great film. She then went “I wonder if everyone who studies film gets a bad taste in movies”. Yes, I’m sure learning more about movies is going to worsen your sense of taste.
Maybe I should have been there to see it? Maybe I could then use my tarnished tastes to give this remake of a remake the judgement it deserves? This might be true, but I get the feeling that majority of my readers are modern-day movie-goers who have no interest in classic cinema and wish to see this new action-Western with lots of great stars in it for what it is. As such, it does its job fine and leaves you with a sufficient amount of quotable lines and quips. I would have liked to see some more dimensions on some of the characters but after the non-existent chemistry of Suidice Squad, I’ll gladly take this.
What The Maginificent Seven lacks in consistent pacing and originality it makes up for in its characters and the direction of its action. It isn’t as great as The Hateful Eight and it’s not as dumb as The Ridiculous 6. It’s like the numbering was deliberate.