One upon a time, Akira Kurosawa directed an epic masterpiece entitled, Seven Samurai, telling the story of several warriors that protect a defenseless village from bandits. Kurosawa’s magnum opus would go on to influence the 1960 western, The Magnificent Seven. Of course Kurosawa’s impact didn’t stop there. Seven Samurai popularized a formula that’s influenced countless Hollywood films, from Star Wars to A Bug’s Life.
This setup has been recycled so many times that it should be officially worn out. If Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven proves anything, though, it’s the formula will never grow old as long as there are memorable characters at the center. While the characters here are by no means magnificent, they are interesting enough to carry a film.
While the characters here are by no means magnificent, they are interesting enough to carry a film.
It’s the 1870’s and the town of Rose Creek is at the mercy of a ruthless industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Haley Bennett stars a spirited woman named Emma, who seeks out a bounty hunter named Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington). Sam agrees to aid the town, rounding up six other gunslingers to provide backup. His army of outlaws includes a joker named Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), the legendary Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a trained killer named Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican fugitive named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Comanche wanderer named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and a simple tracker named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio).
Washington and Pratt might get top billing, but this lineup doesn’t have a weak link. All seven of these actors share wonderful chemistry, which is the most essential component in a movie like this. The filmmakers find a solid balance with each individual having their fair share of badass, humorous, and quiet moments. Sure, they’re not the deepest or most complex characters the western genre has to offer. You can go watch Hell or High Water for that. If you just want to see cool characters doing their thing, though, this flick more than delivers.
Washington and Pratt might get top billing, but this lineup doesn’t have a weak link.
Although our leading men make The Magnificent Seven worth a gander, the film admittedly isn’t without its drawbacks. Sarsgaard’s villain never comes off as all that interesting, especially when compared to our heroes. The middle act also lags at times, but Fuqua compensates with an action-packed climax. The biggest problem, however, is that there aren’t really many surprises here. The film is a fairly straightforward remake of a remake that didn’t necessarily have to exist. Even if it doesn’t reinvent the formula, though, The Magnificent Seven is certainly well made and well acted.
The movie is in the spirit of its predecessors, but the cast and Fuqua’s craft bring just enough freshness to the equation. It might not outdo the original like the recent remakes of True Grit and 3:10 to Yuma did, but the filmmakers have given us a worthy update. Plus, in an age where the sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero genres dominate most mainstream entertainment, it is refreshing to see an old-fashioned western with a few modern twists.