The Magnificent Seven (2016)

  • Time: 132 min
  • Genre: Action | Western
  • Director: Antoine Fuqua
  • Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Peter Sarsgaard


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.


  • Bartholomew Brogue is a weak man and, like all weak men, he rules with wealth and fear. Like the most dangerous of weak men, he’s motivated by money. Today he would be termed a capitalist; back in 1879 when The Magnificent Seven is set, he’s more appropriately known as a robber baron. His main aim, as far as the film is concerned, is the small mining town of Rose Creek and he has no compunction about ordering his minions to shed blood to convince the town’s God-fearing, law-abiding and hard-working citizens to hand over their precious land for a mere fraction of its value.

    Not that Brogue is above getting his own hands dirty. He is, after all, the one who shoots dead Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer), who had the audacity to stand up to him. Three weeks, Brogue proclaims to the townsfolk before he and his men depart, they have three weeks to clear out or get their coffins ready. So when bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) rides into town to capture his latest target, Cullen’s widow Emma (Haley Bennett) offers him all the money the town has to help protect them from Brogue. “So you seek revenge?” Chisolm asks. “I seek righteousness,” she responds, “but I’ll take revenge.”

    Chisolm sets out to assemble his motley crew of mercenaries. First up is Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a charming cardsharp; old buddy Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), the so-called “Angel of Death” haunted by his experiences during the Civil War; Robicheaux’s knife-throwing partner, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee); growling “Texican” Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); and Comanche archer Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Last but most certainly not least is grizzly Jack Horne, played by a scene-stealing Vincent D’Onofrio. It may be worth remembering that D’Onofrio has twice played Orson Welles who, in his later years, was more mountain than man. As Horne, he certainly recalls Welles in bulk (“I believe that bear was wearing people’s clothes,” Faraday notes) and a boy going through puberty in vocal intonation. The sight and sound of him evokes delight, intimidation, and unpredictability. There’s an amazing scene of Horne, in the midst of battle, shot through with arrows, arms outreached that is the film’s most indelible image of sheer will battling against almost impossible odds.

    Battling against almost impossible odds is the very backbone of The Magnificent Seven, which proves itself an extremely solid and entertaining affair. No small feat considering the source material: John Sturges’ 1960 classic (starring Yul Brynner and featuring relative unknowns Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn), which itself was an American remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Yet let’s also be clear-eyed. The premise – a group of disparate characters, dubious in character but good-hearted at their core, learn to work together to save the day – is so sturdy as to be nearly foolproof. This isn’t a knock on the remake, which introduces and establishes its characters with a swiftness and economy that was sorely lacking in The Suicide Squad, and which also deftly balances humour, drama and action.

    The most obvious difference between this film and its 1960 forebear is the increased diversity of its titular septet. Not much is made of the fact that Chisolm is black, Vasquez Mexican and Red Harvest Indian which, depending on one’s viewpoint, can strike as tokenism or simply a sign of our times that this ethnic spectrum needs no special mentioning. In many respects, Washington may be the only actor today who could have played Chisolm – who else possesses the combination of menace and authority that would convince the likes of Faraday, Robicheaux, Horne et al to join him on what is essentially a suicide mission? Chisolm may not be the showiest of roles, but it is a pivotal one as it’s the one that essentially keeps the beat for the other characters. If he’s off, then so are they and so is the movie.

    The final showdown is as exciting as one could hope for, an orgiastic free-for-all of pistols, tomahawks, arrows, booby traps, dynamite, and a Gatling gun that spews out blizzards of bullets. Unlike many of today’s star-studded films, there is actually a sense that not all of these men will survive this battle and that renders their efforts even more valiant. As engaging as The Magnificent Seven is, there is a moment when one realises that it never is genuinely rousing. That moment arrives at the end when the joyously thrilling opening strains (Dun! Dun de dun! Dun de dun-dun-dun!) of Elmer Bernstein’s score for the 1960 film are heard. Then and only then does magnificence figure in this remake.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆½ out of 5 )


    IN BRIEF: Except for its climactic showdown, this movie is an unoriginal slow-down.

    GRADE: C

    SYNOPSIS: A wild bunch tries to save a town from an evil land baron.

    JIM’S REVIEW: During Antoine Fuqua’s semi-new, semi-original film, The Magnificent Seven, one character says matter-of-factly, “I seek righteousness, but I’ll take revenge.” An interesting statement, one of the few choice words spoken by any of the stock characters on the big screen. But its sentiment unequivocally sums up the whole point of this moviegoing experience. Let the shooting begin! Let’s get those bad varmints! Let there be blood (but not enough to get a R-rating)!

    And let me digress a bit: Westerns seem to be making a comeback. Guns and cowboys were synonymous with our American past…The Wild Wild West showed us a more violent. less civilized time in our country, before the NRA even existed. Law and disorder reigned and one had to take matters into their own hands. The country was an open-carry nation. (Does this new fascination of the Old West perpetuate its own myth as modern day filmmakers approach this subject, updating it to today’s standards? Did anything really change, except technology and fashion?)

    That said…now, back to our movie review of The Magnificent Seven (2016):

    Magnificent it’s not. Good, well, it has its moments. Like most remakes, the film becomes a weaker imitation of the original source with each subsequent offering. Mr. Fuqua’s western pales in comparison with Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese classic, The Seven Samurai, which begat John Sturges’ popular 1960 western version, which brought forth this latest offering. Perhaps it suffers from too much in-breeding. Yes, this newest re-boot kept its title, but that’s about all that remains in this violent, politically (in)correct mix of shoot-en-up mayhem.

    In this 2016 version, ethnic diversity is the key in its casting, even if the names have been changed to protect the guilty. Our septet of killers now comes in all colors and shapes. The racially-profiled crew includes: Chisolm (Denzel Washington), an African-American bounty hunter, Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) the coolest Caucasian dude and gamblin’ man, Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a legendary ex-Confederate sharpshooter, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a grizzly bear of a fur trader, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Ninja assassin, Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican bandit, and Red Harvest (Martin Senmeier), a Native American warrior…all assembled from our enjoyment.

    This film has the same basic set-up and well-worn storyline as its predecessors. (Let’s not even include The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, or even The Hateful Eight, other films that are directly inspired and closely resemble its plot.) The leisurely-paced screenplay by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto follows the now predictable formula, bordering on this side of the cliche. The townsfolk, led by a feminist Emma Cullen (a winning Haley Bennett, looking very Jennifer Lawrence), want revenge and hire a group of low-life gunslingers to protect their town from an evil entrepreneur, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his gang of no-gooders. In this retelling, there are no Mexican bandits pillaging the town. Instead, substitute a dirty stinkin’ corrupt capitalist bully who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. (The hidden agenda is not so obscure from the current political scenario found in today’s headlines. Anyway, to recap…they’re with her,) Conflict ensues.

    As I stated before, the film is far from magnificent, every so often reaching a competent level of good rousing entertainment before it hankers down to its non-stop shootout ending. The cast do yeomanlike work in this ill-written roles. Particularly strong are Mr. Washington, Mr. Hawke, and Mr. Pratt. Particularly smarmy is the meaner than a junkyard dog, Mr. Sarsgaard. Particularly hammy is Mr. D’Onofrio, who is not the least bit credible or appealing.

    Also, unappealing is the level of realism in the film’s set design. The town of Rose Creek is unconvincingly off. Everything looks too clean and pristine for the Old West. Every character is so well groomed and scrubbed. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has the best dang hygiene and dental work imaginable. Their teeth shine as brightly as the highly polished pearl handles on their rootin’ tootin’ pistols. It’s like Dress-up at the O.K. Corral.

    Perhaps it is unfair to compare directors, but…this re-imagining lacks imagination. Mr. Fuqua does have talent and he stages the climactic fight with a degree of skill, creating some tense moments. But he has yet to achieve the directorial finesse of Sam Peckinpah or Quentin Tarantino, true masters in this genre. (Their film work are masterclasses in well-staged action and stylish technique, even if they both went the route of glorified violence and blood spatter as shock value.) Mr. Fuqua wisely reins in the gore factor, but his film needs better narrative structure, clearly-written characters, and a deeper political message.

    The Magnificent Seven (2016) is second tier entertainment, well-made but without much depth. It shoots from the hip too often and never take aim as it continually misses its target.

    NOTE: Ironically, this is the third film in a row that I have seen this year in which the film’s end credits are worth viewing with artistic graphic design accompanied by Elmer Bernstein’s memorable theme music. Stay and enjoy, or better yet, see the 1960 version or even the superior foreign film that spawned it all.

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  • I’m sorry but I didn’t find the new Magnificent Seven movie to be all that good. It’s well made technically but as a movie it is a hatchet job on a much better progenitor.
    People will say, “It’s a western and as such it has certain unspoken rules to follow,” but I say no. Westerns can have rounded characters, avoid cliché plot points, not glorify killing, and still be westerns. I think the cliché that bothered me the most was the good guys, right after they had fought and killed a large number of bad guys, lost some of their friends, and were shot up themselves, simply got on their horses and rode, literally, into the sunset. These guys have holes in the bodies, cuts that will take way more than a Bandaid, and, if nothing else, are filthy, bloody, and in need of a bath and a laundry. I assume they could use a good meal as well. But they ride away as if they actually had someplace to go. I couldn’t help it I started to laugh at the end of the movie because it was so ridiculous.
    Then there’s the music. The original Magnificent Seven had a score by Elmer Bernstein and it is classic. It was cliché and comical when this music showed up but worse when it was mimicked every once in a while during the film. It just reminded you of what was missing. The original film was an American western version of the Seven Samurai, a Japanese film. It stuck to the plot fairly well. This version tries to make it more today by changing it from robbers to a robber baron which doesn’t hold up as well as a gang who comes in and steals everything they can every once in a while and the town’s need to react. The new version is the mythologized West created by Hollywood and it’s a joke.
    I give this movie 2 card tricks out of 5. It is a well-produced movie but it isn’t a good one. It looks as if it might have been made by committee.

  • “If God didn’t want them to be sheared, he wouldn’t have made them sheep.”

    Anyone who made an effort to read one of my writings, knows about my opinion on remakes and milestones in film history. I’m not a supporter of digging out hit movies from the past, dusting them off and giving them a new look. In most cases nothing new will be presented. In the worst case the result will fail terribly and the final product is a lamentable bad movie. “Ghosbusters” was such a monstrosity in my opinion and confirmed my assertion that certain milestones are untouchable in film history (I’m afraid the remake of “Jumanji” will end up in that same alley). However, there are exceptions like the recent film “The Jungle Book”. Although this is not a remake in the strictest sense of the word, but rather an adaptation of a cartoon.

    I’m not claiming that this version of “The magnificent seven” surpasses the original film from 1960. The original black and white version is and will always remain a monument. Actually, you can compare this movie with the remake of “Robocop”. Broadly speaking there are similarities, but subtle changes make it a more contemporary version. As with “Robocop”, you shouldn’t compare it too much with the classic version. Because of a few reinterpretations and a flashy new look it’s accurate to say that it’s more a “restyling” and not a “remake”. What are the similarities? Again there’s a community being oppressed and exploited by a power-hungry villain. This time it’s not about Mexican farmers whose much needed harvested food is being stolen by a Mexican gang. This time it’s an ordinary town where the inhabitants have to dig for gold in a mine and they are subjected to pressure by a fierce, crazy tyrant (Peter Sarsgaard) so they would sell their property for a handful of dollars. And once again those desperate inhabitants rely on seven mercenaries who, apparently without hesitation, volunteer to assist the residents to defend themselves against the oppressors. Of course the seven gunslingers are exceptionally talented shooters and the gang bandits are as stupid as an ass. As a result these ruffians are slaughtered en masse. And also the fact that one of the heroes takes on the role of a coward, just as Robert Vaughn did in the 1960 version, is a striking similarity.

    The main distinction is made by the seven gunfighters. A jumble of rough men from different cultures. This way it became a politically correct film. An African-American (Denzel Washington), a Mexican (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), an Indian (Martin Sensmeier) and a Chinese (Byung-Hun Lee) ensured the diversity of origins. In addition, they get the company of a woodsman (Vincent D’Onofrio) whose weight probably transcends his intellect effortlessly. And a womanizing cowboy (Chris Pratt) who manages to hit a target without a problem despite his drinking problem. But overall, this is nothing more than an action-packed western that entertained me immensely. I can’t say it was boring. After the introduction of the main characters, one by one joining the select group, and the preparations for the big confrontation, it’s time for a comprehensive firefight, using a considerably large amount of dynamite, producing an immense rain of bullets and a Gatling gun as an apotheosis. The ruthless seven are being assisted by the motivated farmers with Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a resident who imposed herself the task to look for help, as the leading force.

    “The magnificent seven” was an entertaining film. Afterwards I could feel that youthful, boyish desire again. Once again I wished I had grown up in that period as a tough cowboy. Or I’d be such a rebellious, dusty gunslingers who shoots his opponents calmly and coolly during a gunfight. Perhaps the end was a bit overdone and the different characters weren’t extensively developed. But as a spectacle it was unsurpassable. If you’re looking for untruths or plot holes, you’ll probably find them I suppose. But you have to admit that they have remained faithful to the greatest lie used in almost all Westerns. And that’s about the shooting qualities of a cowboy. In the real Wild West even the best gunslinger couldn’t hit a solid, thick oak. Even if they were standing ten meters from it. The moment you start realizing that, you better stop watching Western movies.

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  • “What we lost in the fire, we’ll find in the ashes.”

    It’s been 56 years since Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen burst onto the screen introducing a generation to one of the greatest Westerns of all time. Now, director Antoine Funque (Training Day) has decided to resurrect a nearly extinct genre for a new generation of cowboys.

    If you’re familiar with my reviews, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of remakes or reboots, especially when you’re tapping into golden nostalgia. I’m also not a fan of Westerns or shoot-em-up flicks, so what sold me on The Magnificent Seven?

    The Magnificent Seven (1960) is actually a remake of the 1954 Japanese epic Seven Samurai. Whether or not you believe this is a story in need of of re-tellling, Funqua cites our current political atmosphere is the perfect opportunity to modernize a classic with diverse heroes attempting to halt political corruption.

    Cinephiles have to wait until the Fall for studios unleash the Oscar contenders and more substantial blockbusters. As Trevor Dueck noticed “Summer 2016 was a bit lackluster, but the September-to-December offerings should renew our love for film with some well-told stories. It was kind of funny to see how many people were pissed off that they made a remake of The Magnificent Seven. Regardless, this film has two of Hollywood’s most bankable stars in Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt.”

    The film follows seven gun men in 1879 in the old west who gradually come together to help a poor village against corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The seven include Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

    What initially had me apprehensive about the film was the desire to re-create a classic, albeit one I’ve never seen, but Fuqua impressed me with his reasoning for re-opening this Western file.

    “One of the most important things is that I believe in what Kurosawa said [with] Seven Samurai, and what Sturges continued: People coming together to stop tyranny. And the idea that perfect strangers that may be a little rough around the edges, flawed characters, can still do the right thing. They were fighting against something bigger than themselves. We’re still dealing with people who are just terrorizing other people. We’re still dealing with people who are abusing other people, burning up the churches, killing people in the streets.” Antoine Fuqua via IndieWire

    The relevancy of the subject is undeniable, but without a completely perfect cast, this would be a tough film to sell for a third time. When Fuqua met with studio executives to begin casting, he found the cast originally selected were all white. Fortunately, he was able to sway the studio to give him a more diverse cast that audiences could relate to. And thank God for that.

    But some disagree with Fuqua’s casting decisions.

    “The Magnificent Seven, like another recent ragtag-band-of-outsiders-saving-the-day movie, Suicide Squad, is an awkward milestone in Hollywood’s ongoing and urgent conversation about representation. As a sheer feat of casting, it feels like it deserves a salute — a $100ish million remake of a 1960 Western in which four of the titular seven aren’t white. The Magnificent Seven is quick-shooting, dynamite-blasting evidence that the filmmakers and executives behind it agree that onscreen diversity is important, but not that they understand that diversity might mean something more than simply having characters of color show up.” via Buzzfeed.

    Fuqua incorporated diverse casting decisions such as African-American Denzel Washington, Korean Byung-hun Lee and Mexican Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. It may sound like an unusual mix of characters for a period piece, but the final product felt like one of the least-forced diversified casting in recent memory and is actually not too unrealistic either.

    It’s a decision Fuqua argues reflects historical reality more than it does any attempt to modernize the story. Fuque tells Vulture that “There were a lot of black cowboys, a lot of Native Americans; Asians working on the railroads. The truth of the West is more modern than the movies have been.”

    The film also features a dominant female performance by Haley Bennett (The Equalizer, Hardcore Henry) who shows as much true grit as her male co-stars. It’s still a damsel in distress role, but this girl can also handle a rifle and take care of herself. She’s not your typical female character who relies on male characters to save her, and we can thank Fuqua for that.

    What I can appreciate about Mag7 is that it transported me to a time I was unfamiliar with capturing all the nuances of the Old West: the dusty frontier, nomadic lifestyle, the bandits and lawmen, the spurs and cowboy boots. Fuqua’s comparison of old day to present day has made the film even more relevant than becoming your typical blockbuster.

    “We still need some magnificent men and women, like we do have in our military and in our service community, to help stop that. But it it has to be all of us,” Fuqua said. “And that’s not just ‘us’ meaning America. Everybody has to throw a hand in there to help, you know? That’s what I think the movie says, how are we still dealing with the same thing? Why are we still dealing with taking advantage of other people this way? And that’s the idea there.” via IndieWire

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