Friday, October 7, 2016

The Magnificent Seven


1: . 2: . 3: . 4: . 5: . 6: . 7: .

The gang's all here. Left to right: 6, 5, 3, 1, 2, 4, and 7.

Hired by the recently widowed to help the people of her small western town by getting rid of , who has taken their land and killed anyone who stood up to him, this group of mismatched men leading another unnecessary remake do something unexpected, and make the unnecessary worthwhile. 

I've not seen the original 1960 Magnificent Seven, but from what I heard the plot plays out quite differently in this film. And that was probably the best decision made regarding the film. What has stayed the same this time is that classic cowboy movie tone that was so popular back in the 50's and 60's, but has since lost its light campiness and been built into something much more serious. Here there are those long, dramatic build-ups to quick-draw shootouts, complete with close-ups and finger twitching and sweat-dripping. There are classically-shot introductions for characters; focusing on their backs or their boots until the cool reveal of their face. Everything milked for all it's worth. And even the plot plays out an old western -- it's a serious situation, but it's meant to be fun for the audience, and that it certainly is. 

Cool dudes and cool gun play. What's not to like?

Instead of re-shooting the same plot in a modern style, what the filmmakers behind this film did was revert back to the classic western method while using modern techniques. The result is a big film, realistic and blockbustery on the action-side, but old-fashioned and nostalgic in its storytelling. The mashup is not without flaws, but it's also something you haven't really seen before, and that's what makes missteps forgivable.

The balance the characters find between classic and contemporary leans mostly to the classic side. They're very simply but uniquely characterized and arcs are tried and true if somewhat predictable; but the performances do cater well to a modern audience. Denzel Washington is an excellent lead, and gets the least complaints. The rest seems to suffer slightly from lack of development, which is understandable considering the cast size. Chris Pratt is always good, and it was fun to see him playing a cowboy. He was cocky and funny with just the right amount of heroism. Ethan Hawke was a surprise favorite. I found his arc very compelling at first, and was a little disappointing that it wasn't more complex in conclusion. 

I'm glad the characters were interesting, but at the same time it only made me wish they were even more interesting.

Vincent D'Onofrio was brilliant and a riot. An epic character, that could lead is own solo movie, but his introduction was so good it was hard to top later. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo I liked immediately, but he faded a little too much into the background later. His character was one of the more grounded ones, but didn't get a distinct arc; as if he were one of the larger-than-life characterized characters who didn't need it as much. Byung-hun Lee had the larger-than-life thing down pat, and so did Martin Sensmeier. Neither had much to say, but had great physical presence. They were also the most engaging to watch fight.

Haley Bennett as a sort of honorary eighth member gets the ball rolling, but then doesn't back off after that, and she's just as good and developed as the rest, if slightly more typical. Peter Sarsgaard saved the villain from being forgettable by playing him well, and not phoning in. For what it is, all the characters were good. They were well-defined and didn't bite off more than they could chew. But this isn't a character movie. It's an action movie with a nice cast of characters on the side. 

I always want there to be more out of the characters, but sometimes (like here) that could just make things worse.

The action itself veers heavily toward modern-day blockbuster stuff, but happily avoids most of the pitfalls that make many actioners these days boring. Even though the entire third act is a battle, there are different things happening in different places featuring different characters that keeps us engaged. And the battle was planned out in detail, so it's easy to tell what's going on. The quality of the action is sometimes lacking -- by today's standards anyway -- with only a handful of memorable stunts. Mostly it's just a lot of well-aimed gun-shooting. But that's when the side of character becomes useful to fill in gaps. 

Undeniably, this movie is silly. It embraces both the cheesiness inherent in the western oldies and the campiness ingrained into modern fun action thrills. It takes it all together, and the silliness becomes a part of the charm. Yes, it is a flaw that a charge of galloping horses would take fifteen seconds to travel twenty yards, but I found it equally as true that the movie needed to milk moments like that for the extra drama in order to live up to its potential. So those moments happened, and were done wholeheartedly, for fun and for entertainment. 

The Seven Who Worked Together to Make a Remake Worthwhile.

The Magnificent Seven never really had potential to live totally up to its name. Magnificent is just too high a standard -- and who needs magnificence anyway, when you can fill your black five-gallon hat up to the brim with classic charm and humor, and cool heroes on a mission to save the day instead? Not magnificent; but everything it needs to be? Absolutely.


  1. Awesome review, as always. :-)

    I wanted to see this, as my first Antoine Fuqua movie (unbelievable), but don't know that I'll get to it at the theater...

    Is the action/shooting stuff kinda "stylized" or over-the-top at all? From the trailer, I almost thought it had a BIT of a Sukiyaki Western Django feel to it (which I've only seen the trailers for as well)... *shrug*

    I guess you have something against at least giving Antoine a mention for me. ;-D (Nah, I don't think you mention directors that often anyway.)

    God bless!

    1. Thanks! No, the action wasn't stylized, it looked like mostly practical effects which was nice, and was shot simply. It got over-the-top a little on the plot side though -- not the way it looked but what happened.

      Yeah, I don't have a rule for mentioning directors. I've seen a couple of Fuqua's films, but just didn't think to mention him.

  2. Love this: "and who needs magnificence anyway, when you can fill your black five-gallon hat up to the brim with classic charm and humor, and cool heroes on a mission to save the day instead? Not magnificent; but everything it needs to be? Absolutely."

    This is so often the kind of film I'm looking for, so if that's all I get from this one, I'll be a happy viewer. :)

    1. Thank you Rissi! :) I think this one will deliver for you -- enjoy!

  3. Nice review! I don't have any "attachment" to the original, but the trailer for the new one didn't seem that great. A lot of good review, including yours, is slowly changing my opinion. It sounds like a fun ride! :)

    1. It certainly wasn't a very high quality or deep film, but I thought it was successfully entertaining, so if that's all you expect, it should be worth it. :) I watched the original after this one, and liked this one slightly more. Thanks Katy!