14
Jan
20

The Magnificent Seven Is Not Quite So Magnificent

Akira Kurosawa’s masterful classic, Seven Samurai, has been remade or reworked too many times to count. Whether the 1960 western re-imagining, The Magnificent Seven, or the 1986 goofball comedy revision Three Amigos, Seven Samurai has remained an enduring and powerful work of art. So, it’s no surprise that re-make thirsty modern Hollywood has gone back to the well to conjure up yet another iteration.

Antoine Fuqua directed the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven. This time it stars frequent collaborator Denzel Washington as the lead gunslinger, Chris Pratt as his second in command, and several other big Hollywood names rounding out the rest of the roles. Unfortunately, given the pedigree, this film had a lot to live up to, and struggled to ever find its footing.

The Magnificent Seven doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. The tone is all over the place. At times it is dark and deathly serious, at times funny, and at times completely cheesy, riddled with cliches. It snaps back and forth moment to moment, and sometimes changes tone mid-scene, causing whiplash for the audience. It seems to have been written in a hurry. Given enough time for rewrites and edits, it could have been distilled to an essential formula, but as it stands as a final product, it is highly inconsistent.

In the film’s favor, it has gorgeous cinematography. If one is going to make a Western, then the scenery is almost as important as the story. Showcasing brilliant plains or mountain vistas, as well as dusty streets and ramshackle towns is a trademark of the genre. This film nails it each time, and certainly captures the right look of a Western. The sound design is equally fantastic. Explosions rumble your bones, and bullets whiz around the sound stage. The sound effects feel just right, and help suck the audience into the movie. The soundtrack is a bit lackluster, using a fairly generic score. Why they chose to do this when they had Elmer Bernstein’s iconic 1960 score sitting right in front of them is a mystery. A great score can elevate a movie. Just think about the score of Star Wars or Indiana Jones. They are a part of their respective films’ DNA. The same can be said of the 1960 Magnificent Seven. They should have re-used the score for the 2016 film.

Performances are strong, as well. Washington is dependable and charismatic as always, and anchors the film well. Pratt provides some comedy relief while also being a ruthless killer, and he does a good enough job you forget his comedic roots. The villain, played by Peter Sarsgaard is a weasley, anemic creature. He doesn’t have the screen presence to square off against Washington, and he lacks the foreboding evil of Eli Wallach from the 1960 film. The film would have been better served casting an actor with more screen presence as the villain. The other actors also turn in solid performances. The characters are woefully underdeveloped. You learn next to nothing about any of them. They each have one personality trait meant to define them, and that’s it. None of them are three-dimensional. And while a longer running time could have alleviated this, the film was already bloated with actions sequences.

The biggest problem with The Magnificent Seven is the action. This is a Western in comestics only. Instead of steely-eyed men staring each other down, with a building sense of tension leading to quick and bloody gunfights, the action here is frenetic and drags on and on. It is more akin to a superhero film or John Wick. The heroes face off against a seemingly infinite horde of bad guys. They kill and kill and kill in a kinetic frenzy that overstays its welcome. The action is not particularly inventive, and amounts to little more than watching the heroes shoot their guns for the final 30 minutes of the film. The ending is predictable and unsatisfying, and the audience is left feeling they have watched a modern action movie with Western trappings rather than a true Western genre film. As an aside, they ended the film on an incredibly fake CGI scene that will leave you scratching your head why it couldn’t have been achieved practically.

The Magnificent Seven is fine as a big-budget, action-heavy, popcorn flick. It’s light on story and character development, but heavy on action. If that’s your thing, you’ll probably like it. Otherwise, it’s rote, and offers little to the development of the genre.

Verdict: Average


2 Responses to “The Magnificent Seven Is Not Quite So Magnificent”


  1. January 19, 2020 at 5:34 am

    “It was magnificent” was a hilariously cheesy and undeserved punchline.
    And yes, the silly CGI crosses… I scratched my head so hard I went bald.

    If Netflix still has your dollar and you fancy more Western wackiness- I’d like to hear your thoughts on “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”.

    • March 14, 2020 at 11:16 am

      I haven’t seen Buster Scruggs yet, but it is on my list to watch. This movie could have been much better, it had a great cast, but the direction really killed it.


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