The Magnificent Seven (2016) review
Horse Feathers on the Rocks
Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day, Southpaw) The Magnificent Seven is actually a remake of a 1960 western of the same name, which is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. In Fuqua’s film, a gold-obsessed tycoon named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) sets his sights on the small town of Rose Creek where he forces the townspeople to abandon their homes and slaughters anyone who opposes him.
Rose Creek resident Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) enlists the assistance of a bounty hunter named Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to dispose of Bogue once and for all. Since they’re going up against Bogue and the best army money can buy, Chisolm is going to need all the help he can get. So Chisolm recruits a gambler named Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a sharpshooter named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a knife savvy assassin named Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), a tracker named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a Mexican outlaw known as Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche warrior called Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
With the odds stacked against them and a town full of farmers who can’t shoot straight, the Seven have less than a week to prepare the small town of Rose Creek for a bloodbath that will likely be filled with the liquid crimson of their friends and family.
Most of the line-up of The Magnificent Seven would be much more interesting if the film had the time to devote to each character individually. Chisolm obviously has a rich back story that he’s attempting to keep under wraps, Farraday seems to become loyal for all of the wrong reasons, Goodnight has a legacy he wishes didn’t exist, Billy barely speaks and yet you’re drawn to him because of his swiftness in a gunfight, and Jack Horne somehow outshines Farraday as the comedic relief. Vasquez and Red Harvest are honestly just after thoughts. Thrown together in a film, the Seven fight tooth and nail over the spotlight which results in a hogwash of paper thin characters that the audience has zero investment in.
When you have this huge ensemble filled with so many recognizable names you’re banking on the on-screen chemistry to be as explosive as the dynamite featured in the film. The Magnificent Seven is completely lacking in both character development and chemistry. You don’t feel for any of the characters and therefore have no emotional connection as far as what the film has to offer in the third act. Peter Sarsgaard, who is normally extremely versatile in his roles, barely has any screen time and fails at making the audience despise the Bogue character. Sarsgaard does little other than pour a jar of dirt on the floor of a church and smoke every time he’s on screen.
This is the first western for director Antoine Fuqua and stars Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington, but it seems like they didn’t research how to make a western entertaining in modern times. The film is written by Richard Wenk (who also wrote Fuqua’s The Equalizer remake) and first time screenplay writer Nic Pizzolatto. What’s unfortunate is that The Magnificent Seven is overwhelmingly rudimentary since it fails to add any sort of depth to its familiar story and one-dimensional characters. An evil villain is attempting to buy out a small town for his own personal gain, so a bounty hunter with nothing better to do steps in to take him out. The entire ensemble is littered with antiheroes who you just don’t care about.
The film also crawls slower than a quadriplegic sloth. After the introduction of each character joining the gang, you have to witness Farraday’s useless magic tricks, Chisolm reenact Leonardo DiCaprio eating raw bison liver in The Revenant (with a deer, no less), and countless family dinner sequences at the local Rose Creek saloon. Every character is full of sarcastic quips and weak one-liners that seem to purposely revoke laughter. Chris Pratt is lacking nearly all of the charm he had in both Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World and any other attempts of humor by the rest of the cast mostly results in an eye roll or head shake at best.
Dull, predictable, and basic in every sense of the word, The Magnificent Seven is a devastating blow to the western genre and yet is about the standard as far as remakes go. It suffers the same fate as Jane Got a Gun, another western from earlier this year; the fantastic cast is unable to save the rehashed rubbish the rest of the film goes out of its way to categorize itself into.