The Magnificent Seven

 photo magnificent_seven_ver5_zpsj0bruyra.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgMovie remakes have long been Hollywood’s backup plan. In only the last 2 years we’ve received RoboCop, Endless Love, About Last Night, Poltergeist, Point Break, The Jungle Book and Ghostbusters. And there’s a staggering number more in development. I tend to greet each with guarded expectations given the middling success of most of them (The Jungle Book was a notable exception) . Given all the ways The Magnificent Seven could have been corrupted, it’s refreshing to see it got a lot right.

Recycling the past is pretty common these days, but a remake of a remake? Well that’s kind of rare. The Magnificent Seven is a new rendition of the classic 1960 western which was also a reworking of the 1954 Japanese epic Seven Samurai. There are still purists who view the John Sturges version as a pale imitation of the original. Although the 1960 interpretation has grown in such stature over the years that it has now become an accepted exemplar of the American western. The American Film Institute even listed it as one of the 100 most thrilling American movies of all time. So the 2016 adaptation begs the question: why redo it?

I was pleasantly surprised. This reproduction could have been a lot worse. It sidestepped my worst fears. Director Antoine Fuqua has kept the setting in the 1870s. Screenwriters Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto have preserved the relatively simple narrative. Keeping it as the straightforward western that it is, are among the picture’s strengths.  Don’t fix what ain’t broke. The story concerns evil land baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who terrorizes the little mining town of Rose Creek. Townsfolk Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), and her friend, Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) enlist bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) for help. Chisolm, in turn, assembles a team of 6 more gunslingers to help out.

Fuqua assembles a racially diverse, all-star cast. Denzel Washington heads up the company. No stranger to his productions, Washington has worked with Fuqua twice before in his most monetarily successful flicks (Training Day, The Equalizer) when adjusted for inflation. There’s Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a hard-drinking gambler with a talent for explosives. He is joined by the sharpshooter with the coolest moniker Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), his assassin-with-a-knife partner, Asian immigrant Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), big burly Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a skilled but goofily unstable tracker, Comanche warrior without a tribe Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and notorious Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). Granted, just roll calling the actors like this is a bit methodical, but it’s such an important component. They’re really the best thing about the movie.

The charismatic ensemble is the most compelling argument to see The Magnificent Seven. Every film has the right to be judged on its own merits, but it’s unreasonable not to acknowledge previous versions in a remake. The modern casting is inventive. Simply watching Denzel Washington play the commanding leader of this posse of renegades has an appeal. He’s good in this context. Although the actors distinguish this production, it’s more of a cosmetic change than a substantive one. There’s charisma on display to be sure, particularly in the comedic moments from wisecracking Chris Pratt. “I believe that bear is wearing people clothes,” he says of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character. Yet the performers still come up a bit lacking in the charm department. That would have really put this adaptation over the top. Oh there’s plenty of rip-roaring shooting on display to distract from its deficiencies. However the bare bones story goes on for far too long. I’ll concede the originals were too lengthy as well. Fuqua could have remedied that with his interpretation, but he doesn’t. In contrast, this variant seems to mosey along at a sluggish pace. There’s no reason why we need such a protracted build-up to the final battle. The final confrontation is long and repetitive as well. Oh and really violent. Thousands are slaughtered in this shoot ’em up . The PG-13 rating just might be the funniest joke of the movie. If you watch this first, having never seen the John Sturges’ classic, you should enjoy it. It’s fine, but it’s not fresh or innovative or memorable or necessary. It’s disposable entertainment for a lazy afternoon matinee. The Magnificent Seven succeeds in that way.

09-22-16

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17 Responses to “The Magnificent Seven”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    Yeah it’s a fair review. I actually did watch this first and then 1960 and Seven Samurai. They all were pretty entertaining I thought. You are so right about the violence in this one. Holy cow! How it got a pg13 really is a joke! The worst thing about this one is changing the bad guy from starving bandits to a boring greedy capitalist. The best thing was the cast. I liked all 7 of them and the action was over the top enough to be kind of fun. Seven Samurai is best but at 3.5 hours it’s not everyday movie viewing like this is. I’d give SS an A+, 1960 film a B because it does drag and the entire cast doesn’t work, and this a B-. Still in the world of remakes I’d say this is a moderate success

    • “The worst thing about this one is changing the bad guy from starving bandits to a boring greedy capitalist.”

      Oh man. I should’ve gone into more detail about “lacking in charm” but Peter Sarsgaard’s character was so dull. Say what you will about Eli Wallach’s over-the-top performance as Calvera, the lead Mexican bandit. At least he was memorable.

      “I’d give…1960 film a B because it does drag and the entire cast doesn’t work.”

      I do wish you had seen the 1960 movie first. It can’t seem as fresh AFTER seeing the new version. I’ve always loved the John Sturges movie. Easily one of my favorite westerns. The 1960 cast has 10x more charisma than this remake. There are some bright moments here and there though.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Yeah it was an unorthodox approach but I tried to be fair and objective to all 3 films. I definitely didn’t see 10x the charisma in 1960 version but that’s just me

      • Well I’m a fan of both Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen but that’s just me. 😉

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        They were the most charismatic but the others were pretty forgettable. I still liked the movie better than this version but I don’t think the difference is huge.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Just got your joke. Ha. Slow day. 😉

  2. I feel like this is the movie that would do crazy good business in the summer, especially with how this past summer went. Just a pretty fun, light on substance but heavy on entertainment view.

    And agreed about the violence, I was watching the climax and the gatling gun sequence and I was like “Man, this is really pushing the line.”

  3. An evil land baron instead of bandits? A racially diverse group to save the town from his greedy depredations? Sounds like political correctness has managed to worm its way into just one more imaginative endeavor of the past.

    But then was 1960 any different? Chris and Vin proved their virtue by driving the Indian’s hearse, after all. And talk about transcending racial barriers! The only person less appropriate than Eli Wallach to play the chief bandito would’ve been Woody Allen.

    • And yet, the driving of that hearse segment had more tense excitement than anything in this new film.

      I suppose every movie reflects the spirit of the times and this one is no different.

  4. I know I loved the original, but I didn’t remember it. I enjoyed this as a good popcorn film. Wanted more jokes told. Those few funny parts really worked. My only complaint was, the time. Too long. I was ready for the final face off much sooner. 3 1/2 stars

  5. I almost fell asleep in several spots. Chris Pratt’s wisecracking and Ethan Hawk’s yelling and the jokes about bears wearing people clothes (ok, that was pretty damn funny actually) weren’t enough to stop the onslaught of mediocrity about this. I so didn’t care by the end. With this many actors of this caliber, I don’t know how that happens. Maybe I blame the really bland and corny script.

  6. Like you, I tend to greet remakes with guarded expectations. I didn’t quite know what to expect out of The Magnificent Seven, so I’m happy to hear that it got a lot right. Taking a straightforward route with the story like the screenwriters do, makes sense. I like that the movie assembles a racially diverse, all-star cast and I could see why the cast would be the movie’s strongest attribute. It’s disappointing to hear that the picture moves at a sluggish pace and goes on for too long. Seems like a missed opportunity on Fuqua’s part to change things up with his version.

    • Yeah he doesn’t change things up. This isn’t a so-called revisionist or neo-Western, but it’s not quite in the classic vein either You get the ideology of Westerns before the mid-1960s, but with an extreme huge body count. No blood though.

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