Another day, and another big-budget movie remake to tackle. This would almost be getting silly if it hadn’t become such an industry norm, but no matter, because it isn’t that often that I get to check out a modern Western. And with that thought to spur us on (no puns intended), let’s check out “The Magnificent Seven”!
The story is so embedded in cinematic history that I’ll keep it really simple. A small town is being brutalised by the owner of a mining company and his hired gunmen. Desperation leads them to seek out help in getting the gang out of their town, and so s group of gunslingers, misfits, and renegades are assembled. Even with their skills and talent, they face an upward task in order to win over the town, in this tale of action and adventure.
If you have seen the original, or the classic “Seven Samurai”, you will be very aware of this story design. It is one that has been utilised and repeated over the past fifty years. A simple recipe that can generally provide entertaining results. But a direct remake of The Magnificent Seven in an era that doesn’t hold big-budget Westerns in high demand is indeed a risk. But they certainly brought together some talent in order to see it through.
Denzel Washington leads the Seven, and is joined by the likes of Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Manual Garcia-Rulfo. It is a very strong lineup with plenty of varying personalities both crashing and melding together. Denzel does a very good job – not spectacular, but enough to make his lead role anchor the movie in place. Peter Sarsgaard plays the main villain, with Haley Bennett as the person who goes out to bring together the team, and be a bad ass too.
A Western wouldn’t work if it didn’t have grand and open landscapes to admire, and they certainly are pretty in here. So is the set design for the towns, and the costume designs which keep everything looking that old-timey way which you expect. But don’t be expecting to be blown out of your seat by the visuals like in “Slow West”, they suffice for here and you will lazily enjoy them.
But let’s be honest, you were expecting to hear the majority of what I had said. Unlike the trainwreck that was the remake of “Ben Hur”, they didn’t manage to mess up the core ideas. So what is different?
Well, the tone is darker for a start, a kind of halfway brooding manner that sustains for the majority of the running time. The rating has been kept fairly moderate, so despite all the gunfire and violence, there’s very little blood. There’s also a stronger emphasis on the Seven having more grey areas, at times looking into their pasts and highlighting that they’re not exactly the White Hats. In some examples this is nice, while in others it feels nudged in purely for the sake of plot. The action is pretty good, they run with a few nice ideas as well as bring back some of the famous scenes from the original. At least I can say there’s a blend of both there.
One aspect I do need to highlight as an issue is the racial tones. I know everyone – it’s a Western, of course there’ll be racial tones. That time in history wasn’t exactly progressive. But you’d expect that once they become comrades in the quest, those blunt one-liners and jokes would take a side seat. But they kind of don’t, and instead persist past their point of welcome. Other issues include the likes of the villain, who is sadly just a mustache-twirling archetype with not a lot going on to him except greed. Also, the army he brings becomes laughably large after a while. I mean, you see them line up before the town but I swear there were an extra thousand or so hiding in the background.
I did go into this with a lot of apprehension, since a remake seemed like such an unnecessary movie for something that copied from another source. But I think my judgement for “The Magnificent Seven” will be a case of “I’ve seen worse”. The story elements and characters are all immediately familiar, but the pacing and design are enough to keep you watching in a mildly entertaining sort of fashion. It may not be that dynamic, but sometimes the trusted formula is just about enough for the studio to get across what they intended – in this case, a revived Western that will draw in fans both new and old. It’s good, but not to the point where I can be very enthusiastic or invested in giving my rating.
Thanks for reading!