This is a movie that I have been looking forward to seeing for months after the preview sank its hooks into me. It has all the right ingredients: an old west setting, an amazing cast, an accomplished director, and the perfect amount of action in the trailer that leaves you wanting more. If you have read my other reviews (check them out if you haven’t) then you’ll know how I feel about remakes: they are difficult to master and often face extra scrutiny if the original is considered a classic. The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake and that original film (Seven Samurai) is widely considered to be one of the best movies ever made. However, the fact that it is a remake coupled with some of the not so nice reviews I read did not manage to dwindle my desire to see it.
If you have seen either of the “original” movies then you should know the basics of the story. There is a small quiet town being taken advantage of by a merciless group of bandits, this time mining for gold. They are led by the ruthless Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) who uses violence and intimidation to get his way. One of the townspeople Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) reaches out to bounty hunter/lawman Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washinton) to help them fight back against their oppressors. Sam assembles a rag tag team of hired guns to battle Bogue and his army of mercenaries. Sam manages to recruit gunslinger Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), former military man Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), his partner Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), wild man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), wanted fugitive Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Native American bow master Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Knowing that they are grossly outnumbered they come up with a plan to defend the town. This brings us to the climactic battle sequence which is fun and frantic and at times very intense. For those that haven’t seen either of the originals I will not spoil it for you.
This movie has a lot of very good qualities to it. As I mentioned before the actors all do a wonderful job with their roles. Bogue is played masterfully by Peter Sarsgaard and his character is just begging us to hate him. Sam Chisolm is portrayed by Denzel Washington who doesn’t really do anything we haven’t seen from him before. He just delivers the rock solid performance we have come to expect. Chris Pratt also does not vary too much from his known style but its not necessarily a bad thing: he is witty, a little smug and sarcastic, but overall very likable. Ethan Hawke turns in one of the better efforts in the movie as Goodnight Robicheaux. He is emotional and very believable. Byung-Hun Lee is energetic in his action scenes as Billy Rocks. Vincent D’Onofrio turned in a surprising role as mountain man Jack Horne. He was hilarious with his one liners and his delivery. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier were both more than adequate in their roles. In addition to the outstanding acting in the film there were many other standout features. The set design and costumes were nearly perfect for creating an authentic old west feeling. The action sequences were all done superbly without relying on too much shaky camera work. I appreciated the comedic touches to break from the serious and sometimes slow moments as well.
This movie does not have that many negatives against it but there are a few. There are some slow moments in between the actions scenes and they happen to seem extra slow making the 133 minute run time seem even longer. The movie introduces many characters with not much back story. With so many interesting characters in this film, it would have been nice to have more background information to learn about why they are who they are. During the final shootout I had an issue with the depiction of the gatling gun being such an unstoppable force of destruction. Since gatling guns are most useful in short range situations (under 100 yards) it seems far fetched, even for a movie, that the gun could be so accurate and deadly at 400-500 yards. That obviously did not make me hate this movie but it was a detractor none the less.
Overall I quite liked this movie. It was a nice addition to the end of summer movie experience. The great actors combined with a compelling story line and fast paced action all added up to a fun day at the theaters. This modern version of a classic western earned itself a respectable 2 Apologies and I would definitely recommend it.