The Magnificent Seven (2016)
The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Genre: Western Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.

Release Date: September 23rd, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Antoine Fuqua Actors: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer

 


 

R

uthless gold magnate Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) routinely terrorizes the citizens of farming town Rose Creek, intending to force them to sell their land for next to nothing. But when Bogue and his hired guns murder several of the townsfolk in cold blood, newly widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) determines to fight back. Heading to a nearby city, she hires warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who in turn recruits several other gunslingers to help defend Rose Creek. Down-on-his-luck gambler and gunman Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), former soldier and sharpshooter “Goodnight” Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knife specialist Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), frontiersman Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) all come together under Chisolm’s guidance to devise a strategy to defeat Bogue and his army of assassins.

“I seek righteousness. But I’ll take revenge.” So says Emma Cullen, who isn’t merely seeking salvation for her oppressed friends and family. And that’s one of the many problems with this latest remake of “The Magnificent Seven” (itself a remake of “Seven Samurai”); many little notions are altered just to change things around for anyone familiar with the original picture, but several major items are also switched or taken out – many that absolutely should not have been. Part of the great appeal to the seven gunslingers is that they do not join forces with the underdogs for the sake of profit or fame; instead, they do it for no specific reward at all. It’s enough that they believe in what they’re fighting for. Yet this 2016 update not only inserts very specific avengement into the plot, it also beclouds the incentive of money. It’s insinuated that the valuables gathered together for payment is relatively small, but it’s not stressed that it’s woefully insufficient, as before. Plus, both Sam and Josh are introduced by their proficiency with weapons, not by upright qualities of character (such as honor and fairness).

This film is really designed for modern audiences, unaware of the existence and the plot points of the former adaptations. Yet it inexplicably retains the title, which can only serve to disappoint fans looking for a faithful reimagining of a timeless tale. In line with 21st-century depictions of the Old West, it takes a villain hurling a tomahawk into the back of a fleeing woman in order to designate villainy. This also requires that the primary antagonist kills off a henchman who fails in his mission, and the level of violence and destruction must be amped up to an extreme degree. At least that last component actually works nicely in this darker, heavy-hitting smorgasbord of bullets and arrows and knives. The anticipation of shootouts is drawn out to dizzying lengths, while bodies are never just felled – they flail about as if jolted by electricity or are launched through windows, whether or not they’re struck anywhere near one. And a Gatling gun is added into the mix to create mayhem like in the climax of “The Wild Bunch.”

Despite the casualties increasing exponentially, and the stunts looking every bit as spectacular as can be expected by modern filmmaking techniques, it’s difficult not to be let down by the finale, which not only robs the villain of the bewilderment of defeat by warriors who cannot be bought with gold, but also has the gall to use Elmer Bernstein’s 1960 theme music (a decision mirroring the strange resurgence of a classic score in 2013’s “The Lone Ranger”). Furthermore, the farmers’ parted celebration at the end is replaced by vocalized gratitude directly to the surviving gunmen, which essentially negates the potency of the professional’s estrangement from family units and, by extension, humanity. If it weren’t odd enough that many of the seemingly insignificant modifications fumble fascinating character subtleties, there isn’t even an exact counterpart to Toshiro Mifune’s Kikuchiyo or Horst Buccholz’ Chico (arguably the most important of the seven in both versions). Even on its own, the film is little more than a few suspenseful shootouts and a bevy of humorous one-liners (there are plenty of similarities to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” beyond the inclusion of actor Pratt). But, as much as director Antoine Fuqua tries to ruin the spirit of the story, he’s unable to completely bankrupt such an engaging premise as mighty warriors coming to the aid of defenseless peasants.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10