‘The Magnificent Seven’ is More Adequate Than Magnificent

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The Magnificent Seven

We’re through the looking glass, people. Hollywood’s ongoing obsession has now led to remakes of remakes with a steady downward slope of diminishing returns. Now Antoine Fuqua is remaking John SturgesThe Magnificent Seven which itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. The resulting movie is a mildly entertaining western that employs every possible cliché from the genre. If you ever wanted to see a big budget remake of Blazing Saddles played entirely with a straight face, The Magnificent Seven is the movie for you.

The simple town of Oak Ridge has been under assault by the robber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), a ruthless and murderous capitalist that will resort to murder to ensure that the town’s gold mine is entirely his. After his most recent rampage has left her husband dead, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) goes in search of gunfighters for hire that will fight Bogue and his legions of violent henchmen. First she tracks down Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter with his own code of honor. Before long, Chisolm is joined by Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a heavy drinking gun slinger and gambler; Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a former Confederate Soldier and sharpshooter with his own heavy drinking habits; Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), an expert with guns and knives, and close friend of Robicheaux; Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw; Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a burly mountain man with a history of slaughtering Native Americans; and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Native American traveler without a tribe. Outgunned and outnumbered, these seven fighters must make a stand with the people of Oak Ridge against Bogue and his army of rogues.

The Magnificent Seven is pretty much a standard Antoine Fuqua film – not terrible but not exactly good. Fuqua brings a competent visual style to his action scenes, especially during the film’s seemingly never-ending climactic shootout, but the film never achieves the epic scale that it seems to aiming for. What really undoes The Magnificent Seven is the underwhelming script by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto, which seems to have been written by following some kind of handbook on western movie clichés. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the 1960 version, you’ve still seen all of these characters and situations before, some scenes even seem as if they were pulled straight from Django Unchained. If anything, The Magnificent Seven is really a testament to just how well Mel Brooks nailed the tropes of the western 40 years ago with Blazing Saddles, and how modern stalwarts of the genre are so petrified to diverge from the familiar elements of the past.

It’s really the trio of leads that keep The Magnificent Seven afloat, with Denzel Washington front and center in his latest collaboration with Fuqua. Washington exudes charm like few other leading men, and he brings those talents to the dusty streets of Oak Ridge. Reuniting with Washington and Fuqua for a Training Day reunion is Ethan Hawke, who probably has the most fascinating character in the whole movie. Hawke’s Robicheaux is a man running from a dark past, suffering with the emotional pain brought by a life of killing. In a movie that is rather unconcerned with backstory, Robicheaux is one of the few characters given much of a past to flesh out his character’s present. Finally, there’s Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday, who, unsurprisingly, is playing the relatively new Chris Pratt archetype – a blend of humorous and honorable. Even though he’s more than watchable in the role, Pratt’s performance is much like the characters and situations of the movie – you’ve seen it before and done better elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the rest of the characters in The Magnificent Seven are fairly underdeveloped. The most interesting of which is Peter Sarsgaard as the nefarious robber baron Bogue. In the film’s first scene, Sarsgaard is chewing the scenery, going over the top in his cartoonish super villainy. Then his character disappears from the movie for a lengthy chunk, diminishing the villain’s impact most of the film’s events. Upon the introduction of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne, you get the feeling you might be watching one of the most comically misguided performances of recent memory. He pops up burly and out of breath after killing two men, and delivers his lines in a wheezy, high-pitched voice. Thankfully, D’Onofrio finds the footing of his character and disaster is averted as the film progresses. Whether D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s Vasquez, Martin Sensmeier’s Red Harvest, or Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks, these characters of the eponymous team don’t have much depth beyond their most basic character functions – for example, Billy Rocks is simply the nimble and deadly Asian assassin of the group, with little in the character’s backstory to provide much depth beyond the visceral badassery.

There are worse ways to spend a little over two hours than The Magnificent Seven, but this is a movie that never finds its own personality over the course of its running time. Throughout Antoine Fuqua’s film are countless moments that are seemingly ripped from older, better movies. Frankly, I was disappointed that the film’s final shootout didn’t spill over into a studio backlot. Despite its numerous deficiencies, The Magnificent Seven is a moderately entertaining, inoffensive western that plays it safe throughout.

The Magnificent Seven
  • Overall Score
2.5

Summary

Overflowing with genre clichés, The Magnificent Seven is a moderately entertaining remake of a remake that coasts by with some competent action scenes and a charming cast led by Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke.

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