The Magnificent Seven, like Ben-Hur, is another of the current crop of remakes where I’ve never seen any previous version, whether the 1960 movie with Yul Brynner, the late ’90s TV series, or 1954’s original The Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa.
The plot is not a complex affair. It’s the 1870s, the Civil War has just ended, and cardboard cut-out baddie Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard hamming it up), strolls into Rose Creek with his heavies and puts fear into the town, resulting in a burned-down church and the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) not coming out of it too well. Revenge is on everyone’s mind.
So step forward Denzel Washington as warrant officer Sam Chisolm, and here’s where the film begins to really pull out all the usual Western cliches. Denzel is the stranger moseying on into town and interrupting a card game – which involved Chris Pratt from Jurassic World (there’s really no point naming his character as he doesn’t behave any differently), who was quite possibly winning as a man with a glass eye sat across from him, with Pratt doing down on the disabled by winking back at him.
Everyone suddenly stops what they’re doing – including the piano player – and looks nervous, except Pratt, of course. There’s a lot of gun-twirling, baddies are quickly dispensed with gunshots – somehow always dying from just a single bullet – and when they’re shot, they always fly out of windows. Those who stay alive spend their day chewing on fat cigars.
Before long, Denzel and Chris team up, and the film then introduces them all one by one, including Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux – pointlessly getting half a shave in one scene, Byung-hun Lee (Terminator Genisys) as Billy Rocks, and Pratt’s dinosaur movie co-star Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne, although I best remember D’Onofrio as Private Pyle from the wonderful Full Metal Jacket. However, despite the necessarily large cast, there’s very little evidence of the thespian art going on, and despite director Antoine Fuqua casting his Training Day leading man, I’ve always thought that Denzel Washington just cannot act his way out of a paper bag.
There’s an amusing scene where Pratt comes up against a couple of dodgy blokes who want to rob him and kill him, led by Wild Bill, while Pratt just wants to show them a card trick, but the rest of it gave me just a few mild chuckles, and then it was very humourless for the most part – which in itself isn’t a problem, as not all films rely on that (Jason Bourne, for example), but I think they should’ve updated it with a bit of humour.
It’s quite nice to see a Western on the big screen again, but while it starts off looking good, as Denzel rides into town,over the opening credits, but overall, it felt way too flat, even when there was action, this feeling coming moreso especially in the final third when it’s the Magnificent Seven vs. Bogue and his men, as I couldn’t get excited about it. Sure, when a gattling gun makes its presence felt, it’s worth a watch, but other than the logistics of how a forward-firing weapon can gain any vertical lift with its ammo, there was little else to engage with during that time.
The rest of the time, the locations look like they’ve laid down some gravel and built a some basic wooden houses in the middle of a field round the back of Asda.
The print looks way too soft on crowd shots and establishing shots, but nicely detailed when in close-ups – although a lot of cinemas, including Vue Lowry, show films with 4K projectors, some or all of this was shot in 2K, so that says a lot about why the quality isn’t up to scratch.
In addition, this was the last film for which James Horner wrote the score, his work being completed by Simon Franglen.
The Magnificent Seven is not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but you can buy the soundtrack CD, and also the Blu-ray editions of The Magnificent Seven Collection and The Seven Samurai. Also, click on the poster for the full-size version.
Running time: 133 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures Corporation Ltd.
Cinema: Vue, Lowry, Salford Quays
Format: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Released: September 23rd 2016
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Producers: Roger Birnbaum and Todd Black
Screenplay: Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto (based on the screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni)
Music: James Horner and Simon Franglen
Sam 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
Red Harvest: Martin Sensmeier
Emma Cullen: Haley Bennett
Bartholomew Bogue: Peter Sarsgaard
Teddy Q: Luke Grimes
Matthew Cullen: Matt Bomer
Denali: Jonathan Joss
McCann: Cam Gigandet
Maxwell: Emil Beheshti
Preacher: Mark Ashworth
Josiah: Billy Slaughter
Anthony: Dodge Prince
Hank Stoner: Matthew Posey
Leni Frankel: Carrie Lazar
Caleb Frankel: Jody Mullins
Fenton: Clint James