While it might not launch a Western cinematic resurgence, The Magnificent Seven gives the genre a much needed shot in the arm.
This is a tremendously fun film with terrific performances and dynamic action. Say hello to the fall’s first big blockbuster.
Probably the biggest critics of the film will be those who grew up watching the 1960 version and hold it up like a testament to classic filmmaking. For those going in without that bias, Director Antoine Fuqua’s remake could become their new Western measuring stick.
The townsfolk of Rose Creek have constantly been terrorized by industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (a perfectly scummy Peter Sarsgaard). When Bogue makes his big play to seize the land, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett, Hardcore Henry) pays bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington, The Equalizer) to protect them.
Recognizing a losing situation, Chisolm starts recruiting crack shots and other feared, dangerous men. Chisolm assembles a well-rounded team of gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt); sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke, Predestination); tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio, Daredevil); assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee, GI Joe Retaliation); outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
Filmmakers pay a ton of lip service speaking about diversity, but Magnificent Seven shows it in action. It would have been perfectly in keeping with the norm to have a seven comprised of white guys of various age, height, weight and facial hair. And maybe a black guy tacked on for ‘diversity.’ Instead, this seven features five ethnic groups. It’s deliberate and doesn’t change the story one bit If anything, seeing these very different characters come together for a common cause benefits from the various races involved. That’s what true diversity looks like.
Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto’s screenplay plays off a team of misfits uniting more effectively than Suicide Squad. They’re no doubt helped by the outstanding ensemble.
At this point it’s easy to take Washington’s greatness for granted. After firing off a six-shooter and riding horseback like a natural, it’s become clear there’s nothing he can’t excel at on the big screen.
Pratt headlined Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, the latter one of the highest grossing films of all time. Those were star-making roles for Pratt, but his performance here suggests he’s ready to get bumped up to superstar status. Pratt has thrived in the every man roles, but his swagger-filled take on Faraday might be his best yet. He provides a fair share of the film’s humor, but Pratt doesn’t get saddled with the class clown role. Faraday has a larger than life presence and it’s due to the rapid evolution as Pratt as an actor.
Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen) paces the film well. Even at 132 minutes, the film never feels long. That’s in part to developing the characters beyond simply being hired guns. Fuqua even works in several scenes between his Training Day leads, Washington and Hawke. Still, with nine principal characters it’s hard to give everyone adequate screen time.
Ever since Tears of the Sun, Fuqua has established himself as one of the most capable action directors of this era. The shoot-out sequences never reach the point of overkill and Fuqua stages them in a clear, easy to follow manner. Fuqua can also reliably be counted on to deliver some gorgeous shots in his films. Fuqua’s longtime cinematographer, Mauro Fiore (Training Day, The Equalizer), once again delivers some gorgeous shots.
Bucking against the trend to make every even remotely profitable film a franchise, Fuqua sticks to the source material. While there might be a sequel, the Magnificent Seven are going to have to fill a few vacancies.
Hollywood has moved past its love affair with Westerns. Nowadays, we’re lucky to get a good one every five years. With The Magnificent Seven it’s time to restart the timer again. This is a really competently made and entertaining film. It spectacularly saves the day before heading off into the sunset.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Sam Emerson/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Columbia Pictures Industries