THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
Directed by: – Antoine Fuqua
Produced by: – Roger Birnbaum, Todd Black
Starring: – Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Ruflo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Matt Bomer
Runtime: – 133 minutes (2hrs 13minutes)
Justice has a number
It’s a little ironic that a ‘Western’ remake of a 1960s film of the same name, which in turn is a remake of a 1954 Japanese classic, Seven Samurai is a refreshing sight for sore eyes in a market that now treats super hero flicks as the new westerns as those movies come out in abundance. Now if anyone knows me they will most likely know that I am a sucker for movies featuring cowboys, tense Mexican stand-offs and great horse riding sequences so for example some of my favourites include the Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western trilogy (A Fist Full of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More & The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) that made Clint Eastwood a big name in Hollywood. Antoine Fuqua of Training Day and The Equalizer glory is attached as director and once again gets to collaborate with two-time academy award winner Denzel Washington and fellow Training Day alumni Ethan Hawke. With a cast also featuring latest Hollywood bad boy Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio who recently killed it as Wilson Fisk in Marvel’s Netflix series Dare Devil and South Korean stud Lee Byung-hun who is well known for his turn as classic G.I. JOE character Snake eyes colour me intrigued. When I also discovered that Nic Pizzolato, the creator of True Detective wrote the screenplay, I was really excited to see whether this remake would be for a lack of a better word ‘Magnificent’.
Set in 1879 The Magnificent Seven starts when Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) hires virtuous bounty hunter, Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to drive her husband’s (Matt Bomer) murderer Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a corrupt industrialist who has taken control of Rose Creek, a farming community to pillage a nearby mine out of town.
Chisolm knowing full well that Bogue will not go down without a spilling blood and guts all over the town decides to get a posse of outlaws and hustlers to retake the town and defend it against Bogue’s army of guns-for-hire. This crew of maladjusted individuals contains gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) with an eye for explosives, war hero and sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) with his knife-wielding partner Billy Rocks (Byung-hun lee), skilled tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Native American warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and notorious Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Ruflo). With that said does The Magnificent Seven deserve the superlative in its title? Lets take a look at the positives and negatives to decide.
- Lets start with our main man Denzel Washington. The actor who is allergic to giving a bad performance in typical fashion gives the audience a solid show. He effectively portrays the leader of the group Chisolm as the straight man who happens to be resourceful, kind and extremely deadly with a six-shooter and a rifle. His character is most memorable and impactful when he gets to play and bounce off his supporting cast. Some highlights for me for example is when he recruits Red Harvest by speaking in the native’s language and eating raw meat as a sign of respect towards him.
- Chubby comedian-turned to Hollywood action star Chris Pratt kills it as the insane gambler Josh Faraday. He is without a doubt one of the films shining star as his character is unpredictable, deadly and also manages to flex his muscles as the comic relief in this picture. He the best representation of the films strong point, its colourful characters and their enthusiasm for the job.
- The other members of the team even though they are not as developed as the two aforementioned actors still bring in good performances. It was great to see Ethan Hawke share the screen with Denzel again after so many years and his character surprisingly has his own arc within the plot that he has to deal with which makes the sharp shooter Robicheaux a more complex character. Vincent D’Onofrio is beginning to make a name as an actor who can bring over the top performances. His character Jack Horne is skilled tracker who Chris Pratt’s character best describes as “a bear wearing human clothes”. He is very soft spoken and often quotes religious prayers that juxtaposes his extremely violent method of getting up close and personal and ending his foes life with tomahawks. Byung-hun character’s Billy Rocks, is a personal favourite of mine as he is man of few words but one who is loyal to his partner Robicheaux and is probably the most lethal of the bunch thanks to his affinity for throwing knives and cutting people up with blades as well as being a crack shot. Red Harvest, the native warrior is another silent strong type armed with bow and arrow and skills that would make Katniss Everdeen shake in her boots
- In a rare twist we actually have a good villain in this movie. Sarsgaard is clearly having fun playing the villainous Bartholomew Bogue. His single minded vision and his will to do whatever it takes to control Rose Creek makes him an unnerving presence. It is little unfortunate that he doesn’t get as much screen time to flex his venom but he does more than enough with the time he is given to make you despise him.
- While the guys get to have a lot of fun, lets not forget about Haley Bennett who brings home a great performance as the sincere but ultimately badass Emma Cullen. It’s truly great to see a woman empowered in this genre as she proves to be just as brave and handy as the individuals she hires to help take the town back.
The film has visual finesse as the cinematography fuses iconic western tropes of luscious backdrops, beautiful sunsets and the prairie setting of Rose Creek which helps forms the films distinct personality with modern filmmaking tools and techniques that allows the film to have a modern yet authentic feel. The music is also worth mentioning as the late James Horner and Simon Franglen composed an awesome soundtrack that helps the film sound like an old western. It is not the best of its class but its definitely up there.
The stand-offs and the shootouts in the film are awesome. It expertly highlights our characters unique attributes and they are extremely tense and will have your gripping your seat to the end.
- Lets get this straight, despite all the praises I have given the film one of its biggest blemishes is that its predictable as elements of the plot and structure is very similar to a lot of other Westerns key examples being For A Few Dollars More and Tombstone. This movie is definitely not going to win any awards for originality but then again when its execution is this sharp it doesn’t need to be.
- Whilst I like most of the gang the one that stuck like a sore thumb to me was the Mexican outlaw Vasquez who is played by Manuel Garcia Ruflo. While he didn’t do a bad job with the role his character was the least memorable in my honest opinion.
- With a movie featuring so many characters it is very likely that some of the characters are not going to receive the same amount of attention or development as others and unfortunately the movie falls into this trap.
The Magnificent Seven is fantastic throwback to a classic genre that once dominated the industry. It’s not perfect as it has some flaws that prevent it from being truly magnificent. With great performances from the A-list cast, great visuals and action set pieces it is absolutely vital that you see this film.
RATING: – MUST WATCH!!