Given the combination of the cast and premise, The Magnificent Seven screams “summer blockbuster.” Thankfully, MGM and Columbia Pictures were wise to place the 2016 Western remake right in the middle of September instead of sticking it somewhere in the crowded (and disappointing) summer season. With a budget over $100M for a movie fitting into a genre many consider “dead,” The Magnificent Seven has a lot riding on its shoulders. Luckily though, director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer) delivers an action-packed, astonishing remake that stands on its own apart from the 1960 classic while also proving that Westerns are the only genre worth rebooting in an age where remakes are the new Hollywood strategy.
Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek. With their lives in jeopardy, Emma Cullen and other desperate residents turn to bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) for help. Chisolm recruits an eclectic group of gunslingers to take on Bogue and his ruthless henchmen. With a deadly showdown on the horizon, the seven mercenaries soon find themselves fighting for more than just money once the bullets start to fly.
The Magnificent Seven could have easily been a “cut and dried” remake of John Sturges’s 1960 version, which is considered by many to be one of the best Westerns of all-time. I mean, there’s not much more you could add to a story about seven gifted outlaws tasked with saving a small town from an army. But what separates today’s Magnificent Seven from the original is the cast itself, which is not only more diverse but also engaging and with plenty of personality.
Denzel Washington plays Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter that will shoot you if you give him one wrong look. While Denzel plays the prototypical protagonist here like in all of his other movies, he somehow offers us another example of how he makes being an action hero look so easy. Whether it’s a standoff or taking down a group of men from the side of his horse, Denzel proves to audiences once again why he’s an A-list actor like none other. And speaking of A-list actors, Chris Pratt soon will find himself in that realm if he continues to give audiences reason to embrace him. Much like his character in Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt, supplies the comic relief in The Magnificent Seven, as Josh Farraday, a gambler with a keen interest in magic. From Parks and Recreation to movie stardom, Pratt is comedic gold and it certainly shows when the movie pulls back from its dramatic moments.
Along with Denzel and Pratt, The Magnificent Seven is full of other standout cast members, as well. Vincent D’Onorfio, who plays a trapper with a high-pitched voice you won’t expect, delivers some of the best dialogue in the movie. You’ve seen D’Onorfio play some serious roles; but I guarantee you’ve never seen him like this. Lee Byung-hun, a huge movie star overseas, plays a skilled assassin and offers some of the best action moments in the movie. While knife play is not commonly seen in Westerns, Lee’s character offers some of the movie’s best action sequences when his character’s blade comes into play.
As for the other members of the Seven, Ethan Hawke is fine as a sharpshooter, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is peachy as the Mexican outlaw, and Martin Sensmeier is exceptional as the Comanche warrior. Unlike Suicide Squad, another movie about skilled misfits banding together, The Magnificent Seven is able to balance great chemistry that seeps through during the entire course of its 133-minute joyride. Give credit to screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) and Richard Wenk for allowing enough time for each of the seven members of the group to shine by showing off their unique talents that separate themselves from one another. And while Peter Sarsgaard, in the role of the movie’s antagonist, is the lone weakness of the movie, his motives are still clear and appropriate seeing as what his character is seeking to accomplish.
Along with an outstanding cast, The Magnificent Seven is an action-packed shoot-‘em-up and, as a result, more violent than you might expect. While that may be the case, director Antoine Fuqua draws back to old Western movies with plenty of ridiculous over-the-top action (all set to an epic, boasting Western theme, of course), which is perfectly suitable if you’ve seen your share of Westerns. And as for the grand finale, Fuqua sets the stage with numerous explosions in unexpected places, an unheard of body count, and bullets galore from every direction the camera veers. The finale, which could have accounted for half the movie’s budget, doesn’t miss a single moment of the action around as we watch the seven heroines defend a small town from all directions. For years, Fuqua’s movies have been hit-or-miss; but if there’s one thing he’s firmly grasped onto, it’s a movie’s action, making every sequence count when the time comes.
The Magnificent Seven doesn’t bring anything original to the Western genre. Still, nearly everything, from cast to action sequences to production design and dialogue, is top notch. I had more fun with The Magnificent Seven than I have with any other movie in a long time. The Magnificent Seven leaves no stone unturned in its quest for giving audiences exactly what they want, which perfectly fits the old expression of getting the “bang for your buck.” When the credits rolled and the infamous music from the 1960 classic played in the theater, the only word that came to mind for what I just saw was corny, but so fitting: magnificent.