Review: The Magnificent Seven (2016)


The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Rated PG-13, Action/Western, runtime 2 hours 12 minutes, 2.35:1, MGM & Columbia Pictures.

Look everyone, another remake! Instead of remaking The Magnificent series 1-6, MGM & Columbia Pictures decided to jump right to The Magnificent Seven (total dad joke, sorry – while leaving the theater I had to bite my tongue from saying out loud, “I can’t wait to watch one through six!”). While most think the 1960’s version as the original, it’s simply not true. Akira Kurosawa, arguably one of if not the greatest filmmaker of the 20th century, wrote and directed its first incarnation: Seven Samurai (1954). The plot is simple and timeless. It is hinged on strongly defined and executed character while maintaining it as an ensemble piece.


Side-note: The Magnificent Seven (1960), although a Western remake of Seven Samurai (1954), the Western version is the on that keeps being remade. There were also several messy sequels of which became progressively worse, forgotten, and eventually made for TV. That didn’t stop it from being remade many many times and in different forms such as the 1980’s Roger Corman Cult Classic: Battle Beyond The Stars (1980) or the comedy romp: The Three Amigos! (1986).

In a nutshell: a small town in 1879 is being violently bullied by an ambitious and savage tycoon. The townspeople begin to unite against the tycoon of which only erupts into a brutal display of power against the outspoken townsfolk. Desperate times calls for desperate measures as a pair of townspeople go searching for someone to help save their community by eradicating the threat. In order to save their town, each misfit is added one by one to become The Magnificent Seven then leading to the town to a final battle against evil.

I could go deep into comparing directors, actors, and the different versions over the years but I won’t. I’m just not invested THAT deeply into the almost 60 years of this movie being remade again and again to compare nor do I hold it that close to my chest as an unnecessary remake to argue about. Seven Samurai is a masterpiece that doesn’t resemble enough of the 1960 Western revision to get all uppity about. I don’t care if a Western is remade even if it is a classic with an amazing original cast. I liked the remake of 3:10 To Yuma (1957/2007) because the remake had a strong cast.

The Magnificent Seven (2016) has a strong cast, I liked everything about them; it felt familiar and comfortable. In spite of the insane amount of violence (without gore, hence the PG-13 rating) there was deliberate playfulness that fit the actor to the character. Other than Haley Bennett (as Widow Emma Cullen) whom plays a motivated and strong-willed townsperson, the rest of the ensemble is a boy’s club, a charming boy’s club. I thought a few times that this is how Suicide Squad (2016) should’ve been handled or at least edited. Everything paced out really well from first act to final act it didn’t feel like a movie that was over 2 hours long and that’s not an easy thing to do. It has a few rest/bathroom-run moments but I didn’t want to miss a word because it was all about the ensemble development/bonding.

Chris Pratt is the fun guy. If you don’t like Pratt then you shouldn’t watch this movie, he’s 90% of this movie (a much better role than Jurassic World). Denzel is Denzel… his character arc was obvious yet compelling (can’t keep your eyes off of him). Ethan Hawke isn’t my favorite actor as he can have a Corey Feldman-esq response from me, at times, but I LOVED him as PTSD Goodnight Robicheaux… dirty, gruff, modest, frightened, and conflicted. Vincent D’Onofrio as “a bear wearing a human” Jack Horne is such an insane delight that he speaks softly but cleaves loudly under spiritual guidance. Byung-hun Lee is Billy Rocks, what I can compare to as an Annie Oakley to Buffalo Bill relationship as is Goodnight to Rocks. The advantage that Billy Rocks has is the Eastern fighting techniques that the Western US developing territories/states are not accustom to so none of them really know how to put up a defense.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is Vasquez “the Mexican”. The character is good but there were a couple times where the fact he was Mexican became an uncomfortable joke. I think the turn around from being “The Mexican Joke” to a legitimate hero despite his race was a missed opportunity. Let’s talk Martin Sensmeier as the Comanche named Red Harvest. He’s our strong silent type with more layers than we initially realize. He’s our Suicide Squad Diablo meets LotR Legolas for dinner with Daryl Dixon.

The villain is Bartholomew Bogue, a silver spoon-fed bastard played by Peter Sarsgaard. From the very beginning of the movie he went from a cliché dismissive/disposable villain to a completely compelling asshole. I was hoping more from him throughout the movie but it didn’t need more than it showed even if I wanted more. Damn great actor and I can’t wait to see more from him.

So, they hit most of the right marks with the casting, dialog, and story arc. I think I have some issue with the cinematography. This is where I have a Hateful Eight (2015) divide/discussion. The Hateful Eight was a bore-fest BUT the cinematography was PERFECT. The Magnificent Seven (2016) was exciting and engaging but the cinematography was DULL. They had the gorgeous backdrop of New Mexico but interior shots were shot as though the director said, “use Hollywood lighting but make it seem like we’re using natural light”

Other than my minor quibbles I had lots of fun and laughs throughout. It kept my attention the entire time (same goes for my wife) and it doesn’t tarnish anything about the original Seven Samurai or Western of the same name 1960. I’d recommend it and I’ll most likely buy it when it comes out on Blu-Ray. It’s just enough fun while retaining the right amount of anti-hero brutality.

-Adam Rutkowski