Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Running Time: 133 mins
The Magnificent Seven is an American film about a team of cowboys who are hired by a small village to defend it against brutal aggressors.
Recent Hollywood remakes don’t have the best track record, so you’ll understand why I went into The Magnificent Seven with a bit of trepidation. However, I was surprised to see that this is definitely one of the better modern remakes. Although it’s not quite as Westerny as the original, and it takes a little too long to get going, it’s a really good-looking, well-acted and eventually action-packed movie that’s a lot of fun to watch.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind going into this film is that it’s not going to be the sort of movie that die-hards of the original Magnificent Seven want, nor is it going to be hugely pleasing to fans of the western genre. But remember, The Magnificent Seven was a remake of Seven Samurai after all, so changing things up isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
So, let’s start off on the bright side, with the visuals. Although it may not feel so much like a classic western, The Magnificent Seven definitely looks the part. Featuring some absolutely wonderful landscape shots of the desert, as well as some perfectly-poised Mexican standoffs in old towns, the film’s imagery places you firmly in the Wild West, and that plays a huge part in making its story as convincing and different as possible from a generic action blockbuster.
What’s more is that director Antoine Fuqua does a very good job when it comes to the action sequences. Although impressively few and far between early on, each burst of action is really entertaining, and at least doesn’t submit to the worst tropes of modern action movies (so no shaky cam here!). The best part of the movie, however, is the final act.
A forty-odd minute long action finale that never gets tiring, and with Fuqua’s impressive direction, becomes more and more exciting and engrossing as the stakes get higher. Although it again feels a little too modern to be comparable to a proper Western, I was hugely impressed with how much fun I had in the finale, and the excellent direction, as well as the continuation of storytelling throughout, made it even better.
When it comes to the story here, it’s a film of two halves. The first act is pretty poor, given that we spend almost an hour roaming around the Wild West looking for members for the team, and then giving each of them a superhero-esque introduction scene. The characters are well-established, and you do care for most of them when it comes to the intense battle at the end, but the slowness of the first act just doesn’t feel warranted. It’s not quite Westerny enough to have such a slow-moving pace, and I felt like that establishing act could have, and should have, been cut considerably.
That said, once we get into the town the men have to defend, it all gets a lot more interesting. Still not moving at a particularly fast pace, the film buckles down with a great focus on preparing for the upcoming battle, full of fantastic dialogue and humour that makes for a really engaging watch. Then it’s onto the final battle, which is far more riveting than you’d expect, proving that Hollywood can carry off an action sequence well whilst telling a story.
Finally, the performances in this movie are pretty good too. Denzel Washington is ice cool in the lead role, whilst Chris Pratt is hugely entertaining alongside, mixing his action chops with his brilliance to provide comic relief. We get a little bit of insight into Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and Byung-hun Lee’s characters, all of whom also put in entertaining shows. The chemistry between the seven, as well as Haley Bennett in a supporting role, is excellent, and makes their conviction to fight for the freedom of this village all the more convincing and entertaining.
Overall, I had a really good time with The Magnificent Seven. It’s definitely not as good as the original, and often feels a lot more like an action movie than a proper Western, but for the most part, it’s a hugely entertaining and impressively-helmed film full of humour, good storytelling and great performances, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.