Director Antoine Fuqua brings his modern vision to a classic story in The Magnificent Seven. With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns.
As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.
Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington make an entertaining pair in their Western debut, but The Magnificent Seven doesn’t bring anything new to the genre and is little more than forgettable popcorn fare.
This film is based on the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven, which was based on the 1954 film Seven Samurai.
When robber baron Bartholomew Bogue threatens the town of Rose Creek, the townspeople find themselves beaten, murdered, and helpless to fight back against the villain and his men. After her husband is brutally killed in front of her, Emma Cullen takes matters into her own hands. With the help of Teddy Q, she seeks out someone to help them take a stand against Bogue.
Their path leads them to Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter from Kansas. Initially uninterested in their plight, Chisolm relents and decides to help them. He assembles a ragtag band of gunfighters, wanted criminals, and other violent misfits from across the land. But in taking up the cause of Emma and Rose Creek, they find redemption along the way.
The Magnificent Seven is rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.
It’s hard to believe it, but this is Denzel Washington’s first Western. While it’s new territory for him, he seems perfectly at home in the genre. From standoffs in the streets to shootouts in the saloon to stare downs with cowardly sheriffs, Washington feels like he’s been playing a cowboy his entire life in his role as Sam Chisolm. He commands the screen on horseback as well as he does in any modern day setting. If you’re a fan of his, you’ll enjoy The Magnificent Seven.
While Denzel Washington commands the screen, he leaves plenty of the spotlight for Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday. Pratt has already proven he can play a space cowboy as Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy and a dinosaur cowboy in Jurassic World, so it’s a natural transition for him to play a real cowboy here. Like Washington, this is Pratt’s first real Western but he’s a natural at it. He handles the action and humor with his usual ease and is a real crowd pleaser with audiences. Pair Washington’s straight man with Pratt’s comic relief and you have a pair that’s fun to watch.
Washington and Pratt are the main stars that people are going to turn out to see, but they have a strong supporting cast behind them. Ethan Hawke is noteworthy as Goodnight Robicheaux, a Civil War sharpshooter with a case of PTSD. He is partnered with Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks. Lee brings a lot of impressive martial arts to the Western world in the spirit of Kung Fu. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a psychotic Grizzly Adams as Jack Horne. Martin Sensmeier plays the required Indian warrior as Red Harvest. Haley Bennett is also good as Emma Cullen and shows she can share the screen with the rest of the strong cast. I think she’ll be considered for a lot of action films in the future based on her performance here. And we already know Peter Sarsgaard can be an imposing villain in any movie. He reinforces that as Bartholomew Bogue, though he has little screentime.
If you like action and gunfights, The Magnificent Seven delivers. There are a few fun action scenes when Chisolm is rounding up our anti-heroes. Each scene establishes why these guys are both heroes and villains. But that helps set the stage for them in the eventual final confrontation. It’s what you paid admission for and it doesn’t disappoint.
I am a major fan of composer James Horner and this was the last score that he was working on at the time of his death last year. While it’s not his most memorable movie score, you do hear his touches here and there which help elevate the scenes in the Western. Horner’s score was completed by collaborator Simon Franglen. And yes, the classic theme from the 1960 film by Elmer Bernstein does appear in the final credits.
While this movie is a fun popcorn flick, it adds nothing new to the Western genre. You have the same old tropes you’re always used to, just with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt this time. Maybe that’s enough for you, but if you’re looking fine cinematic art or a new landmark Western, it isn’t here.
Director Antoine Fuqua made some questionable choices with this film. For some reason Vincent D’Onofrio plays Jack Horne with a high-pitched voice. I suppose it’s supposed to be a contrast in an otherwise bear of a man, but it ended up being comical and distracting. Another odd choice was Haley Bennett’s wardrobe. All of her outfits had plunging necklines that seemed more like modern attire than that of a frontier woman. It didn’t seem genuine in a film that otherwise seemed to be somewhat authentic. You had to snicker a bit at the effort to sex her up for audiences.
If you’re a fan of Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, or Westerns in general, then I think you’ll find The Magnificent Seven to be a perfectly serviceable, and forgettable, popcorn flick. It’s a fun movie. If you’re looking for fine cinema or the Western genre to be elevated, you’ll be sorely disappointed. I think it’s worth checking out on the big screen if you’re bored. At the very least it’s worth a rental down the road.