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The Magnificent Seven (2016) Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven (2016) movie poster The Magnificent Seven

Theatrical Release: September 23, 2016 / Running Time: 134 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Antoine Fuqua / Writers: Richard Wenk, Nic Pizzolatto (screenplay); Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni (original screenplay)

Cast: Denzel Washington (Sam Chisolm), Chris Pratt (Josh Faraday), Ethan Hawke (Goodnight Robicheaux), Vincent D'Onofrio (Jack Horne), Byung-hun Lee (Billy Rocks), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Vasquez), Martin Sensmeier (Red Harvest), Haley Bennett (Emma Cullen), Peter Sarsgaard (Bartholomew Bogue), Luke Grimes (Teddy Q), Matt Bomer (Matthew Cullen), Jonathan Joss (Denali), Cam Gigandet (McCann), Emil Beheshti (Maxwell), Mark Ashworth (Preacher), Billy Slaughter (Josiah)

 

If someone told you that Antoine Fuqua was remaking The Magnificent Seven and you recognized Fuqua as the director of Training Day and The Equalizer, you might assume there'd be a lead role for Denzel Washington. And you would be right. You might also expect Fuqua making a western with modern sensibilities and one driven by action.
Again, you'd be right. And if you were to let your assumptions run wild and surmise that this one would be appreciated by ordinary moviegoers but somewhat scoffed at by critics comparing it to both the original 1960 film and its classic inspiration (Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai), you would be 3 for 3. Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven will meet your expectations squarely, but probably not your hopes.

Set sometime after the Civil War, the film opens in the dusty small American town of Rose Creek. A church service there is interrupted by the vile industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his armed entourage. Wielding a can full of dust, Bogue "offers" to pay citizens $20 for their homes. He'll be back in three weeks to collect signed deeds. Before he leaves, though, he kills a decent man (Matt Bomer). The man's young widow Emma (Haley Bennett) and friend Teddy (Luke Grimes) go out to pursue their options for revenge, a purse with all their savings in hand.

Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) and Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt) are the first assembled and most focal of "The Magnificent Seven."

They find Sam Chisolm (Washington), a warrant officer from Wichita who coolly shuts up a saloon to collect on its ill-doing bartender in his introductory scene. That's the first of seven. The second is Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), a gambling man whose horse Chisolm helps him reobtain in exchange for his services.

This being 2016, naturally this Seven is more multicultural than the original, which featured the likes of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn up against Mexican bandits. Among the heroes here are a knife-throwing Asian assassin (Byung-hun Lee), a face-painted Comanche warrior (Martin Sensmeier), and a Mexican outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) whose warrants Chisolm overlooks.

Rounding out the gang in more elevated roles are Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a sharpshooting Confederate veteran who seems to be shaken up by all his kills, and wild mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio). All seven men are lethal in their own ways and each quickly commits to the cause of Rose Creek, rallying the citizens to join them and defend their town from the inevitable return of Bogue and company.

The Magnificent Seven (Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Byung-hun Lee) line up for a tasteful profile shot.

Like most of Fuqua's filmography, Magnificent Seven finds that pocket between mediocre and good. It's definitely a movie, not a film. It's long, running over two hours. It's very violent, but still rated PG-13 on account of the relative paucity of blood shown. The film has a sense of humor, as you can imagine. It also commits to story and characters to a greater degree than the director's earlier works. Alas, neither the story nor any of the characters elevate the material to grade-A entertainment.
It consistently straddles a line between a B- and a C+, as the whole thing plays out with little imagination and few surprises. (The biggest surprise may be that the original's iconic Elmer Bernstein theme is withheld until the end credits.) Many at my "IMAX" screening didn't seem to mind, cheering during certain moments of the inevitable climax, as no doubt is intended.

Plenty seasoned in the action genre, Fuqua and his crew of course know how to stage that climax in a competent and engaging fashion. The whole movie is building up to it, so it's a sequence you expect to be grand and ambitious. It does not disappoint in this regard, as bullets whir, casualties rack up, and the quest for redemption marches on. As usual, Washington makes for a sympathetic hero. Those around him have some more shades of gray and therefore more intrigue to their characters. But nothing really stands out as much as the one trait that unifies the team: a sense of duty in the name of righteousness, which can be traced back to Kurosawa.

This Magnificent carries a nearly $100 million production budget, about 50 times that of the original 1960 western if you ignore inflation. It will need to gross at least that much domestically and again overseas to be deemed a commercial success for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures. That should be within reach based on Washington's consistently solid box office record and whatever boost comes from having Pratt accept a deuteragonist role coming off headlining two of the biggest hits of the last two years.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Sully Hell or High Water Snowden Blair Witch The Light Between Oceans Storks
Directed by Antoine Fuqua: Southpaw The Equalizer Olympus Has Fallen Brooklyn's Finest Shooter King Arthur
Denzel Washington: Virtuosity Remember the Titans Unstoppable The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Deja Vu He Got Game
Chris Pratt: Jurassic World Guardians of the Galaxy Zero Dark Thirty
Ethan Hawke: The Phenom Boyhood Maggie's Plan Regression Good Kill Predestination Getaway
Westerns: The Hateful Eight True Grit (2010) Django Unchained

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Reviewed September 23, 2016.



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