Stop it. I know what you are thinking. Oh great another remake, another sign that Hollywood is running out of ideas, and Adam is going to say the same sort of thing that he says for remakes. Well no, as that would be hypocritical. Mainly because while the original Magnificent Seven is a great film and I’d rather it be left alone, that film is also a remake. In case you don’t know, that film was remake of the classic Seven Samurai which has a genuine claim to be the greatest film of all time. Can the new The Magnificent Seven film come close to this standard?
A town in the old west is taken over by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, Jarhead) so he can have access to a nearby gold mine and when the town try to chuck him out, many of the citizens are slaughtered. One of them is the husband of Emma Cullun (Haley Bennett, The Equalizer) who seeks out Chisholm (Denzel Washington, Training Day) and asks him to create a team that can clear Bogue out of their town.
It is worth mentioning right away that the so called magnificent seven are never developed in full. Quite frankly, it is impossible to give this many characters, because some of the supporting cast and the villain need a character too, a full arc. So while we get brief character lines for most of the seven, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) is a mad man, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee, I Saw The Devil) is an immigrant who is awesome with knives and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier, Lilin’s Brood) is great with a bow and an arrow. The guys with the main arcs are former Civil War solider Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke, Gattaca) who has to get over a form of PTSD to help save the town and Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy) who turns from a crook into a hero. These are decent arcs which while clichéd, do enough to make us care about the story. No, the issue is with Chisholm’s arc or the lack of it. He is the leader, the main character and nothing changes. He gets paid to defend a town, he defends a town. He dominates the screen time, so this is a huge disappointment and drags down the film.
However the best arc in the film surprisingly doesn’t belong to any of the seven, but to the woman that brought them together Emily. She begins the film looking for help so that she can get her vengeance for the death of her husband, but by the end she is just as bad ass as the seven. It would have been very easy to make this story a purely male affair, something just for the lads to enjoy. But no, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) puts this arc in for Emily where she becomes just as good as the seven and becomes key to the attempt to liberate her town. It’s the best addition in the entire movie and makes all the flaws worth it, but we’ll get to those.
Having seen a few Fuqua films now, there is one thing that is pretty much the same throughout all of his films. He directs very good action scenes. None of them are particularly groundbreaking, but they are all very well put together and do bring a smile to the face, which is all you can ask for really. And with The Magnificent Seven, the same applies here. The colours are vivid, the action is clear to see on screen and the set pieces are quite a lot of fun. All the different skills of the seven mean we see a variety of action, which means you don’t bored. There really isn’t much to say as Fuqua puts together these scenes with good pace and nothing particularly of note, other than Vincent D’Onofrio tackling a man on a horse because that was amazing, but it is all very good.
However, the film doesn’t follow through with a great opening scene to really lay out the stakes for us. To begin with, the film does a very good job of showing us why Bogue is a bad guy as he slaughters many people in the town of Rose Creek, and even does so in a church. He’s evil, the film makes that clear. But then we forget about him and he doesn’t show up until the conclusion. This is a fatal flaw. Even if it’s just a five minute trip to see Bogue killing some poor guy or just looking menacing, we need to be reminded of the stakes, why the seven are needed and why they need to win. It is basic storytelling and it is forgotten.
Also forgotten, is this film. I’m writing this a couple of days after seeing the film and most of the time, I still have a vivid memory of the film, especially if it is particularly good or bad. But with this one, it just doesn’t leave a major impact on you. The reason I didn’t write this review the day after watching it like I usually do is because I forgot I watched it and needed to review it. This does happen alarmingly regular with some films, which is why I have set reminders on my phone, but this one was especially bad. I’ve been staring at this screen figuring out what to write for so long and some how I’ve managed to get this far. The reason the film is forgettable is because while it does plenty of things well, it never does them brilliantly, meaning D’Onofrio tackling the man on a horse is the most memorable moment. That said, it would be the most memorable thing in most films.
The Magnificent Seven isn’t a terrible film and won’t ever get on those Worst Top 10 Remake lists that get pumped out. It has some fun action scenes and the storylines present aren’t terrible, even if some aren’t present at all. It’s just that it does nothing remarkable, nothing that will stick in your mind. It is a film that has been made just to entertain you for two hours and then be completely forgotten. I’m not going to be completely down on this as it isn’t the worst way to waste time, but I do wish it did something just a bit more interesting.