Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt star in director Antoine Fuqua’s take on one of the most revered Westerns of all-time … But does the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven live up to its name?
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Byung-hun Lee, Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Matt Bomer and Luke Grimes
Seeing her husband and her town of Rose Creek suffering under the vise-like grip of Bogue, Cullen sets out to find someone that might be able to help stop his reign of terror – and that’s where Chisholm comes in. For he is the man Cullen tracks down to help her save Rose Creek, but he knows he can’t do it alone.
This is why he recruits a team of randy soldiers to help him in battle. This includes: gambler/card trickster Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), gentle mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), wanted Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Maneul Garcia-Rulfo), reformed Confederate soldier Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his Asian partner in gun – and knife fights – Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) and Native American warrior/raw meat enthusiast Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), who was told by his elders that “his path is different.” Knowing they only have a week to train before Bogue returns from Sacramento to attempt to wipe out the whole town, Chisholm and his men try to get the town – and much to his chagrin, a very determined Mrs. Cullen – ready to fight.
Considering they will truly be in a fight for their lives, they’re going to need all the help and training time they can get.
SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? The cliché says you are never supposed to judge a book by its cover, or, in a movie’s case, by its trailer and cast. Then again, given how many clichés one can find in the western genre, you could possibly be forgiven for doing that in the case of The Magnificent Seven.
For when a project is done as well as director Antoine Fuqua’s affair is, the first glance is the right glance if it makes you think it is a pretty magnificent movie.
Seven isn’t one of those remakes that tries to re-invent the wheel as much as it attempts to simply nails each one of its beats exceptionally well to the point that if you are not a die hard fan of the original – it is in the Library of Congress’ film preservation archive, after all – this one will suit you quite nicely.Washington does his usual superb job of bringing his subtle-yet-focused swagger to the role of Chisholm, a man whose motivations for accepting the job are not fully detailed until the film’s climatic moments. Likewise, Pratt wields his boyish/devilish charm to the hilt, making his upbeat yet skilled gunslinger effective as needed to balance out Washington’s unflinching demeanor. You get exactly what you anticipate from the two leading men in leading men roles, fortunately without any cliché-in-a-non-entertaining-because-it-just-doesn’t-feel-organic fashion moments.
The rest of our would be heroes likewise hit their marks, adding a unique flavor to the mix that never feels as forced as one might fear it may, Sensmeier and Lee especially as each plays their role with nothing but a stoic pride, reverence and relevance. While their characters are supposed to be a rag-tag group of fighters, there is nothing that feels unnatural about their work together. When you have badasses that know they are badasses, it’s much better to have them simply show they are badasses than to have them repeatedly say they are (think every 80s action movie starring men now in their 60s).
Bennett shows a solid turn as a strong female character, exhibiting a balance between wife pushed to her limits and woman in a harsh time (and even harsher environment). While there are times she almost feels a bit too put upon, but she does her best to rise above the near one-note (but somewhat needed) nature of her character. Sarsgaard turns in his finest villainous turn to date because he does the thing many actors fail to do in villainous roles: Embrace the fact they are the pure embodiment of pain, torture and despair that will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. Instead of being an after thought that fails to live up to his ominous presence, Sarsgaard makes sure that you know there will be no stopping him and that he has not one ounce of remorse in his being – and that’s what a good villain does.
Director Antoine Fuqua of course deserves credit for making all of his moving pieces fit together, which, given the star power involved, was obviously not an easy task. As stated above, each actor makes the most of their moment en route to reaching their individual destinies, which is just all you can ask (other than doing something remarkable that takes the performance to another level). The scenery stays within the tradition of what one associates with the Old West from the dusty, life-worn roughnecks of saloons to the unrelenting beauty of the frontier. Save for possibly replaying a copy of Red Dead Redemption, Seven combines modern drama with the classic Western tale exceptionally under Fuqua’s watch, the battle and gunfight scenes showcasing excellent tension creation in slow, steady builds before bombastic, grandiose all out violence.
Whether or not the Western as a genre comes back into vogue remains to be seen; if Hollywood delivers more immersive experiences like The Magnificent Seven, though, there’s a good chance they might ride again.