The latest in a recent splurge of remakes, Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven” delivers an entertaining, action-packed western thriller, even if it is lacking in originality.
The remake of John Sturges’ 1960 original film starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen — widely considered to be a classic in the Western genre — is a much more modern take on the time, replacing the formerly all-white, all-male cast with a much more diverse look and a strong performance by Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen, the woman who seeks out the seven hired guns.
Outside of the more diverse cast, the film is still essentially a point-for-point remake. The characters share many similarities in their personalities, motivations and weapons of choice. The plots for both films are nearly identical as well, leaving fans expecting a rewrite slightly disappointed that it is essentially the same film. But there is plenty more for the fans to be excited about.
Denzel Washington delivers yet another phenomenal performance, this time as Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter set to lead a group of seven gunslingers attempting to take back a village from a villainous, gold-crazed Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Chisolm is backed by a charismatic gambler named Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a timid sniper named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a knife-wielding assassin named Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), a tracker named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Comanche warrior named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and a Mexican bandit named Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).
The best performances of the film come from the leading pair of Pratt and Washington. They have some clear on-screen chemistry and deliver on the hype that came prior to the film’s release. And though that pair stands out, Bennett and D’Onofrio also deliver memorable performances while Sarsgaard presents a menacing Western villain to the audience.
One of the major strengths of the film is the dialogue, written by Nic Pizzolatto, writer and creator of the HBO series “True Detective.” The script provides many instances of comic relief with entertaining back-and-forth quips between many of the Seven. And with talented heavyweights like Pratt and Washington delivering the lines, the audience will find themselves chuckling throughout the film.
The only true disappointment in the film is that it was clearly made to be more family-friendly and is very much restrained. The bodies pile up in the film, but the PG-13 rating holds it back. This movie joins a growing crowd of films that feature plenty of killing (enough to keep away younger audiences), but the rating prevents the fight scenes from reaching the modern standard of blood-filled and profanity-laced action sequences that are commonly found in R-rated films. It is stuck in the middle of the action film spectrum — probably too violent for children and yet lacks the blood and gore found in most modern adult action movies.
With that said, the gunfights between the Seven and Bogue’s men are very well choreographed and are reminiscent of the action sequences from older westerns. Though the filmmakers could have gotten more out of their fight scenes by bumping the movie up to an R rating, there is no doubt the film keeps audiences invested in the action. They keep viewers on the edge of their seat with pulse-pounding conflicts between outlaws on horseback, men shooting through buildings and snipers picking off enemies from afar. And of course, what Western would be complete without a suspenseful final duel at the end.
Taking it for what it is, “The Magnificent Seven” is a fun, charismatic, action thriller that provides fans with enough to leave the theaters moderately satisfied. The film will neither receive nor warrant Academy Award consideration, but it entertains with exciting action sequences and humorous dialogue that make up for a lack of originality. Fuqua’s remake comes short of reaching the extremely lofty expectations set by the original, but it does not disappoint if movie-goers enter the film with tempered expectations.