The Magnificent Seven is one of those remakes that didn’t need to happen (because the 1960 version of the same name starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen is a classic). But since it did happen, I’m glad it’s nothing like most of the remakes we’ve seen. That is, this at least held up the entertainment end of “mindless entertainment.”
And that’s exactly what The Magnificent Seven is meant to be—an entertaining escape in the form of a rowdy Western shoot ’em up. Sure, the characters are one-dimensional, and the story rushes just so we can get to the climatic battle. But it’s one of those movies where, if you don’t look too closely at it, you’ll have a good time.
Set in 1879, the good people of Rose Creek (a small fictional town which I believe is supposed to be somewhere in the Southwest) are being forced out of their homes by industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). After Bogue kills several leaders in the town, young widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) sets out to find hired guns to help Rose Creek reclaim their town from Bogue’s men.
And those seven hired guns are bounty hunter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington), gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), mountain man and tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
One of the best parts about The Magnificent Seven is its diverse cast, which is a far cry from the blatant racism and stereotyping in the 1960 film (i.e., when Eli Wallach played a Mexican bandit in brown face). But the bad news is they aren’t given the chance to really develop their characters and their characters’ relationships beyond their one-note attributes. Hell, most of them barely speak.
Of course, Chisholm got more of a backstory than the others, which makes sense since he’s the leader. And also because everyone came to see this for Denzel (with a side helping of Chris Pratt). But the backstory weakly ties him to Bogue and doesn’t add to the good guys vs. bad guys tension. It feels like a last-minute reveal to give Chisholm justified revenge. This is what I mean by one-dimensional characters and a rushed story. There’s no question who’s good and who’s bad because screw character arcs…we have shit to blow up!
Thank god the blowing shit up part is cool because, otherwise, this whole movie would be a waste of time. I swear the climax (i.e., the shootout between the seven and Bogue’s army) lasts 30 minutes. Okay, it’s not that long, but it feels that long. And I understand why director Antoine Fuqua and writers Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto wanted to rush everything to get to that point. It’s exciting, and it’s the only time where you can actually feel the tension.
So there you go. It’s not a smart movie, and it’s definitely an unnecessary remake. But there are guns and horses and chesty women and explosions and what the hell else do you need, right?
The Magnificent Seven: B-
Listen to my review of The Magnificent Seven on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 35:42).