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Overall Rating
2.75

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look: 25%
Average: 8.33%
Pretty Bad50%
Total Crap: 8.33%

1 review, 6 user ratings


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Magnificent Seven, The (2016)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"No Longer Set In A One-Horst Town"
2 stars

At the risk of having my all-important man card permanently taken away from me, I would like to offer up the possibly heretical suggestion that the 1960 Western “The Magnificent Seven” is not quite the classic that its proponents like to think it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it is a perfectly entertaining genre movie but when put up against the solid classicism of the John Ford and Howard Hawks oaters that preceded it or the cheerfully gaudy operatics of the Sergio Leone epics that followed it, it cannot help but come across as a little square by comparison. What it does have going for it—pretty much the elements that tend to get cited by people who still proclaim it to be a classic—are one of the most stirring scores ever composed, courtesy of the great Elmer Bernstein, and, more importantly, one of the most charismatic casts ever assembled under one cinematic roof, including the likes of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Horst Buchholz and James Coburn all trying to steal the movie from each other and Brad Dexter simply trying to keep up. And yet, it is so familiar and so beloved to many that it is not surprising to see that it is the latest to get the big remake treatment by filmmakers hoping to exploit the goodwill people have towards the title in order to sell it to a new generation of filmmakers. What they inexplicably failed to realize is that its key selling point—the once-in-a-lifetime competitive camaraderie between its killer cast—is the one thing that could not easily be replicated in a new rendition. As a result, this new take on “The Magnificent Seven” is only halfway there—there are certainly seven people at its center but, despite their obvious individual talents, they never quite mesh together in a way that even the easiest of graders would deem to be “magnificent” with a straight face.

As the film opens, the small mining town of Rose Creek is under siege from the forces of greedy industrial pig Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who is determined to force all of the residents out so that he can take all the gold in the nearby mine for himself—to underscore his final offer to buy their land for only a sliver of its worth, he sets fire to the local church during a town meeting and has his henchman shoot and tomahawk anyone who gets in their way. Something needs to be done but none of the remaining residents are good enough at fighting to defend themselves properly. Enter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington), a super-suave bounty hunter who arrives out of nowhere and easily dispatches the sleazy bartender that is his latest target. The widow (Haley Bennett) of one of the men recent slaughtered by Bogue offers Chisolm all of the town’s valuables if he will help them and, after the inevitable token resistance, he agrees to put together a group that will help defend the town when Bogue returns in three weeks to take over once and for all.

Chisolm’s first recruit is Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), an amiable goofball—a whiz with card tricks and even more of a whiz with a gun—who agrees to join up when Chisolm pays to get his horse out of hock. Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) is a former Confederate sniper and old friend of Chisolm’s who is harboring a dark secret but who also brings along his current associate, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), an Asian who is very good with a gun and practically unstoppable with a penknife. For additional ethnic diversity, they are joined by “Texican” bandit Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Comanche Indian Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Rounding out the group is Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a borderline crazy mountain man willing to kill anyone who comes across his path. After announcing themselves to Bogue by slaughtering nearly all the men that he left behind, they have to teach the remaining residents of Rose Creek how to defend themselves before Bogue returns with an army ready and willing to wipe them out.

The problem with this take on “The Magnificent Seven” is the same that has befallen so many other unnecessary remakes of late—it never comes up with a new idea or approach to justify its existence. Take the original version for example—it was itself a remake of the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece “The Seven Samurai” but it took the inspired idea to relocate it from medieval Japan to the Old West and ran with it. Here, screenwriters Nik Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk have a couple of minor ideas to help update the material for today’s sensibilities—the seven are now a more overtly multicultural group and even the one female character of note is perfectly comfortable with slinging a gun and the villainous Bogue is more of a corporate fat cat who will do anything to increase his bottom line while hiding behind his army of hired goons. These additions are mildly intriguing but the film never really does much of anything with them and by the last hour, director Antoine Fuqua abandons them entirely in order to turn it into one extended action set piece in which countless people are shot, stabbed and hatcheted in an orgy of violence that may raise a few eyebrows over the fact that it still somehow managed to retain a PG-13 rating despite all the carnage on display.

The other and perhaps more inevitable problem is the inescapable fact that the new cast simply fails to live up to their predecessors. Of course, such comparisons are kind of unfair since, in people like McQueen, Bronson, Brynner and Coburn, the original was lucky to have some of the coolest actors to ever step in front of a camera in the same film. That said, even if you are able to somehow put your memories of the original cast aside, there is still something lacking about the group assembled for this go-around. Now Denzel Washington, appearing in the first Western of his long and varied career, is pretty awesome and comes the closest to replicating the magnetism of those who came before him—his first scene where he arrives in the saloon to confront the bartender that is his quarry is pitch-perfect and he maintains an effective balance of god-like cool and essential humanity throughout the rest of the film. Unfortunately, none of the other six come close to matching him—although Pratt, Hawke and D’Onofrio each have a couple of good moments, they keep trying to outdo the other to see who can be the colorful one of the bunch while the other three are content to just stand their and represent their various ethnic heritages without contributing anything of substance. Put it this way, if you ever wondered what “The Magnificent Seven” might have been like if it featured one Yul Brynner and six Brad Dexters, this is the movie for you.

Considering the fact that there are so few Westerns being produced these days, there is the temptation to be a little more forgiving towards “The Magnificent Seven” simply because a.) it exists and b.) if it succeeds, it might inspire others to take a chance with the genre. Although it does have a few exciting moments here and there, the combination of the largely lackluster cast, uninteresting villain and by-the-numbers screenplay is simply too much to overlook. Besides, even though Westerns are not exactly plentiful these days, this won’t even go down as the best oater featuring Ethan Hawke in the cast to come out this fall (that film, Ti West’s “In a Valley of Violence,” is a nifty take on the genre that is well worth keeping an eye out for when it arrives). The best thing that you can say about this version of “The Magnificent Seven” is that it is better than the two sequels to the original film that you probably forgot even existed, though it will probably end up with the same fate.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=29704&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/24/16 00:46:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Venice Film Festival For more in the 2016 Venice Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell entertaining western 4 stars
12/26/16 mr.mike Better than I expected. 4 stars
12/24/16 Langano Couldn't get through it, bored me to tears. 1 stars
10/02/16 action movie fan fire is right the action scenes are terrific but the story is so so 3 stars
9/29/16 Angel Baby Araiza Love me some denzel washington 4 stars
9/25/16 FireWithFire Better than the original, the action sequences are quite astonishing. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  23-Sep-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Dec-2016

UK
  N/A

Australia
  23-Sep-2016
  DVD: 20-Dec-2016




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