Movie Review: "The Magnificent Seven" (2016 Remake)
I feel I need to preempt this review by saying that while I have seen the 1960 classic with Yul Brenner and Company it has been an insanely long time. We're talking long enough that the only thing that distinguishes this Denzel and Pratt driven vehicle (for me) as a remake is the basic plot line of a downtrodden Western town besieged by bad guys. I just wanted y'all to know that. Okay? Okay.
Underrated actor Peter Sarsgaard ("Jarhead", "Black Mass") is Bartholomew Bogue, a robber baron in the Old West of the late 1800's. He's looking to snatch the town of Rose Creek and erase it from memory to expand his personal empire. Surprisingly enough this was the character that worked the worst for me- I found him to be banal and uninspired and sickly where I think they were going for icy and menacing and sleazy. Just my take.
You know this right out of the gate because it is the opening scene, and it hits you right in the face. It's a bit of a heavy-handed exposition device, but I can forgive that. It definitely establishes that Bogue and his mining cronies are evil as all fuck. Grieving widow Emma Cullen is played with some heart and balls by relative newcomer Haley Bennett. She and a friend set out to recruit badass "don't call me a bounty hunter" Warrant Officer Sam Chisolm.
Needless to say, that is where the movie makes it's money. As you would expect from the title, "The Magnificent Seven" is a feature to drive this assortment of misfits and hooligans in their bid to the right thing and protect this budding town from evil. The previous incarnations (both the 1960 version and the legendary "Seven Samurai") are less about just "The 7" and more about all sides of the conflict. This movie is straight ensemble action.
Chisolm is rightly the centerpiece, played the always amazing multiple Oscar-winner Denzel Washington ("Training Day", "Glory"). He's a good guy with a fast gun and a hard edge....and he's just so fucking cool. Chris Pratt ("Guardians of the Galaxy") plays Josh Faraday, card shark and expert with a six-shooter. Pratt does what he always does- crack lightning fast jokes and be devastating. It's his calling card. Ethan Hawke ("Training Day") plays legendary Confederate sharpshooter "Goodnight" Robicheaux, and he is my personal favorite of this film (and it's not JUST because he's a rebel). His nuances are well played and he has the best emotional arc of any character. He's got a yellow streak and inner turmoil. The writers clearly had a soft spot for him.
There's a lot of humor to be had in this movie all around, but the real screamer is THE MAN aka Vincent D'Onofrio ("Full Metal Jacket"). He's a mountain man with a penchant for hunting and scalping Indians. His voice cracks constantly (almost to a falsetto) and his wry sense of humor and timing steal more than one scene. Korean actor Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow from the "G.I. Joe" series) is your knife and hand-to-hand expert. Mexican actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo ("Cake") is the classic bandit with no moral compass. Rounding out "The 7" is Native Alaskan newcomer Martin Sensmeier as the Indian bowfreak Red Harvest.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Black, Southern White, Mountain Man, Asian, Mexican, Indian.....I've seen many people calling it "The Diversity 7". I have no problem with that. This is not a "realistic" Western. If it were, the vast majority would've been white. Let's be real.
This is an action movie with cowboy clothes on. I don't say that to knock it. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. Sometimes you just want to be entertained, and I was most definitely entertained. It's got all the humor and style you could ask for. The action side is pretty damn stellar.....unbelievable as fuck, but it's damn fun to watch.
The action is a 10/10. The ensemble cast and their various relationships are a 9/10. The rest of the cast seems to be there for the purpose of filling in the necessary blanks to flesh out the story. This is not a deep story. This was a chance to put together one hell of a shoot 'em up with a funny, badass cast. In that regard they delivered perfectly.
If you're looking for "Unforgiven" or "Tombstone" you won't get it here. You will get a movie that doesn't take itself seriously, and that mostly works in it's favor. It's fun. I do wonder what could've been if they'd gone for something deeper. I'm giving it a 7/10 with a smile. If I'd paid movie theater money I'd have given it a 6/10. Location matters, folks.