Vol. 10, No. 1 – October 12 – October 25, 2016 – Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven
by Eduardo Victoria/eduardovictory@yahoo.com

It was only a matter of time before Akira Kurosawa’s action masterpiece Seven Samurai was updated for a modern generation. Only this time around, the filmmakers have chosen to stick to the Western genre and use that format to bring the story to life once more in a re-telling of the John Sturges ensemble film The Magnificent Seven. That film, released in 1960, told the story of seven hired guns who upon protecting a village of poor farmers for virtually no money learn that they are not fighting for the inhabitants, but instead for something far greater than themselves. This time around Antoine Fuqua brings his fast, slick spin to the West with Denzel Washington playing Sam Chisolm, a man in black who is tasked with assembling seven guns once more for the same premise.

Joining Chisum is Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a smooth talking and charismatic face who is also good with a pistol. Jack Hunter (Vincent D’Onofrio) is an eccentric and expert tracker and Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) is a legendary marksman who is struggling with his violent past. The film is excellently cast Vaszquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) round out the cast and bring an authenticity to their characters even with little screen time for some. They are brought together by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a widow seeking revenge for the death of her husband and to stop Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) from destroying their lives and their homes.

If you’re familiar with the original film, you’ll notice recycled elements from the first two; everything from set pieces to specific lines of dialogue. Sturges’ film has a runtime of 128 minutes and fits in an impressive amount of exposition, action, and story in that time. Clocking in at 132 minutes Fuqua’s Seven seems extremely rushed, with a few characters getting shoddy introductions (sorry Red Harvest, but your intro didn’t make a lot of sense), strange character development that doesn’t lead anywhere, and a mustache twirling villain whose evil plan isn’t very evil or for that matter, coherent.

On that note, the film’s cast shines and brings characters to life that would otherwise prove dull on the page. Hawke’s Robicheaux is a man suffering from a legacy of violence and death, one that has finally taken its toll on his ability to be able to fire a weapon at another human being. With his eyes telegraphing the struggle, he doesn’t need to say much in order for us to know what he’s feeling. Washington is perfectly cast as the man in black, this time named Chisolm (probably a nod to the John Wayne western classic Chisum). Although the film is a little too referential (the opening is almost beat for beat out of Django Unchained), the film finds its footing in the modern action genre with its astonishing final battle between a hundred men against seven.

The film’s final set piece uses actual stunt riders on horse back as opposed to having to rely on CGI to create acrobatics that were once done practically. It is big and goes on for a long time, but it is without a doubt some of the most exciting action put on screen this year. Film score nerds will also recognize a very familiar rhythm played by the percussion in the film’s score, that’s right, it is a quote of Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score to the original film.

Though not necessarily very politically correct, Kurosawa and Sturges burden the audience with the farmer’s poverty more so than to let us know. These people were on the point of desperation, no longer knowing what to do. My main problem the film is that this is a tale of revenge. There is no realization that these men have to do what is right. In the third act, it’s revealed that the intentions of defending the people of the town go beyond standing up for what is right and are actually a plan for revenge. That said, it seems to fit perfectly well in this gritty update to The Magnificent Seven, yet somehow doesn’t feel right.

Now playing at Cinemark Downtown 10. 128 minutes. Rated PG-13.

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