It would be nice to go a few weeks without using the term remake, but it seems 2016 is not going to allow me that luxury. After a series of hight-profile remakes such as “Ghostbusters” and “Ben-Hur,” we now have “The Magnificent Seven,” a remake of the classic 1960 Western of the same name, which itself was a remake of the 1954 Japanese film, “Seven Samurai” from acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa. Now, I have to say this new “The Magnificent Seven” is different from both “Ghostbusters” and “Ben-Hur” in one very important way: it’s actually a quality, entertaining movie.
As for the 1960s version of “The Magnificent Seven,” I saw it as a kid, but I honestly don’t have much connection to the movie. Or really any Western for that matter. It’s simply not a genre that I gravitate to, having never really embraced it as a child. I don’t dislike Westerns, but I don’t seek them out, and since becoming an adult, there really hasn’t been much opportunity to find new examples because the genre has mostly faded from the market.
It’s actually kind of interesting, because Westerns today exist in a seemingly bizarro (opposite) world compared to most other genres. If we do get a traditional, action-adventure Western, it will mostly find itself in a handful of theaters before disappearing with nary a ripple at the box office. On the other hand, if we get the more art-house Westerns, such as the Coen brothers’ remake of “True Grit,” or Quentin Tarantino’s ultra-violent “The Hateful Eight,” they tend to get wide releases on their way to Academy Award nominations. In any other genre, these art-house flicks would get the tiny releases and ripple-less box office impact, at least until they secured all of the award nominations and people had to figure out what they are.
I say all of that because this new version of “The Magnificent Seven,” directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “The Equalizer”), finally breaks this model by being that traditional action-adventure Western, but one with a wide release, a quality director and an all-star cast.
The Westerns of old were not trying to be best picture of the year. They’re weren’t trying to be masterpieces of film art. They were trying to be entertaining adventures with plenty of action, memorable characters and lots of fun. And that’s exactly what “The Magnificent Seven” delivers.
Regardless of the version, the story always follows a ragtag group of warriors who are hired to protect a small town from the thieves threatening it. In the 2016 remake, the town is Rose Creek, which is besieged by mine owner Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, “The Killing”), who is trying to chase everyone away so he can expand his operations, and is willing to kill anyone who stands in his way. When Bogue kills her husband, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett, “The Equalizer”) sets out to find anyone willing to stand up to Bogue and his army of paid followers.
Along the way she meets bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington, “The Equalizer”), who has his own personal reasons to take the job. But he can’t take on Bogue alone, so he must gather as many courageous–or potentially suicidal–gunslingers as he can find, and they include: the gambler Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt, “Jurassic World”); the cajun sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke, “Training Day”); the Asian assassin Bill Rocks (Byung-hun Lee, “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra”); the famed tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio, “Daredevil”); the Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series”) and the Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier, “Lilin’s Brood”).
This is a relatively long movie at two hours, 13 minutes, but is has no shortage of action. In fact, I’d wager the final confrontation spans the last 45 minutes of the movie. There are a few times the movie slows down in the second act, but even then, there is rarely much time between one gun fight and the next.
There’s plenty of comic relief, especially from Pratt and Garcia-Rulfo, but the film isn’t afraid to be serious when it needs to be. That being said, the story never goes overboard on the comedy nor does it get too melodramatic, finding that middle road that provides plenty of fun action but makes you care about what’s going on beyond the hail of bullets.
“The Magnificent Seven” provides plenty of entertainment and is a movie I think both Western fans as well anyone else looking for a solid action-adventure will definitely enjoy.
The film is rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.
(This is a abbreviated version of the full review available in our printed or e-edition papers.)