/ Reviews

The Magnificent Seven: An average remake no one asks for

The Magnificent Seven works well with a likable group of misfits, carefully executed action sequences, and just enough humor to stray not too far from the harsh world of 19th century America.

In the 2016 raging storm filled with news about and installments of reboot, remake, rehash, sequel, prequel, and spin-off ideas from Hollywood, The Magnificent Seven popped into the box office during the hiatus right between summer and the Halloween holidays. It is a direct remake of the original Western film from 1960, which is also a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s timeless masterpiece Seven Samurai from 1954, and stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Haley Bennett, Ethan Hawke and Peter Sarsgaard in a tale of vengeance and frontier justice.

Set in the later half of 19th century, the story revolves around Rose Creek, a mining town taken over by an industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Skarsgaard), who kills several of the townspeople in the process. Among the victim is Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer), hence the search for help by his assertive wife Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) and her friend Teddy Q (Luke Grimes). They stumble upon the bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) who suddenly agrees to lend a hand after learning that Bogue is the big boss. The crew then recruits six more crusaders into their gig: gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Ruflo), veteran sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) together with his partner Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Indian hunter Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), and skilled Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen

The newly formed Magnificent Seven arrives at Rose Creek just in time to find a group of Bogue’s henchmen. A shootout quickly occurs, resulting in the elimination of the gang, and Rose Creek’s corrupted sheriff is sent to Bogue to deliver Chilsom’s declaration of war. The Seven and Cullen then start preparing for Bogue’s wrath brought upon this town.

Seven marks the latest collaboration between director Antoine Fuqua and actor Denzel Washington after previous works – Training Day and Equalizer. Fuqua has been always one among the flexible type, as he already helmed suspenseful thriller (Training Day), all-out entertaining action (Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen) to profound sports drama (Southpaw), so we can expect Seven to be a fulfilling, quick-paced Western flick. At most, the movie does not offer much to live up to the proud legacy of its predecessors, as Fuqua understood the true essence of a 2016 remake summer popcorn film.

Antoine Fuqua and Chris Pratt at a promotional event

Seven of modernity now carries with its plot only the original movies’ basic premise and a few details in the recruiting process, which will definitely remind audience of the tropes back then. The characters are not given much sincere depth. On the other hand, its Western settings were impressive as landscape shots and battle set pieces are meticulously crafted, giving off the vastness of sceneries here. The domain of Rose Creek’s buildings and mines, as well as the surrounding prairie, is also made well-rounded for the combat shots to gratify moviegoers’ thrill and adrenaline rush. The final battle does not give any feel of overlong or messy but instead, quite adequately choreographed and arranged in wide shots while being sentimentally grounded in close-ups.

The charming lead Washington gave a strong performance in the role of Sam Chisolm, a skillful gunslinger who appears from the start to take to responsibility in assembling our anti-hero protagonists. His presence is proved to have considerably significant heft, both to the storyline and to the supporting characters, influencing the other Six in a more disciplined manner that most of them lack. Unlike the original Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura) of Seven Samurai, Chilsom’s motive is purely personal as Bogue has a negative impact on the tragic phase of his early life.

Denzel Washington as Chisolm and Chris Pratt as Faraday

Chris Pratt portrayed the degenerate, slack Faraday to near perfection as he was really having fun with the role. This character too is well-written to provide the group with continuous entertainment both during preparation and amidst the crossfire. As his previous roles like Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy and Owen in Jurassic World, Pratt has a self-absorbed vibe that can spread his own enthusiastic attitude around. There is this one scene where audience can feel so much for him with his amiable and calm demeanor in the face of lethality.

(From left to right) Vincent D’Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee as the Seven

The main villain, Bogue is given quite a lot of screen time for Skarsgaard to deliver a menacing figure of greed and corporate power, which feels unnerving in the opening act, while Emma Cullen is balanced between a sincere town resident who seeks for outside help and a worthy warrior who stands by side of the Seven in their darkest time. Other actors of the Seven are all given enough space to show off their own personalities and special skills. This could be the most diversified group of onscreen heroes this year, featuring an independent and strong female figure, an African-American leader, an Asian-American, a Mexican-American, and a Native American.

Peter Sarsgaard as the villainous Bogue

In all, the movie worked reasonably well through its 133-minute runtime with a likable group of misfits, carefully executed action sequences, and just enough humor to stray not too far from the dirty, harsh world of 19th century America, giving the post-Civil War a whole new perspective regarding the racial diversity and its impact. To compare Seven to the original ones would be absurd because the nature of this movie is purely for mainstream entertainment, not to living up to Akira Kurosawa’s rich legacy.