The Magnificent Seven is really a surprise hit for me. In this era where Hollywood has reached a state in which they turn out dreary remake after remake, I had expected all these movies to suck. I mean, look at movies like Independence Day: Resurgence and Ben-Hur. The original Independence Day and the Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston are so famous that their remakes or reboots should have been cinematic events. These movies should have been long anticipated, like the seventh Star Wars movie was. But instead, some CGI-filled monstrosities were slapped together with no respect for cinematic legacy, and released into the theatres as an afterthought, struggling for our attention.
By now, I’m sure many people have lost faith that a famous movie-title makes for an exciting remake. I at least have lost faith that Hollywood knows how to respect its own past, or even understands why certain movies were the successes that they were. But sometimes the stars align, and with the Magnificent Seven we have a good one. It almost feels like an accident.
We do have the actors to make it work. There’s Denzel Washington, the chief bad-ass of the bunch. His character is like Jamie Foxx’s Django in his later years. Denzel just plays the role that he always does. He is in control, cool, with an understated power and confidence. Second on the list is Chris Pratt, who also plays the role that he always does. His character is like Star Lord from the Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s a smirking thief, a ladies man, a joker. Compared to Denzel, he seemed a bit out of place, really, or he is just more visible, while Denzel merges himself into the story more fluently.
Yes, this is a movie where few risks are taken. Everyone plays the roles that people expect them to play, and the actors do what they are good at. Some of those characters are actually cartoons, like the villain played by Peter Sarsgaard. He’s just being villainous for the form of it. Only Vincent D’Onofrio is a loose cannon. I guess the director Antoine Fuqua told him to just create something odd. He plays a really weird, but sort of touching, high-strung mountain man. He has a grudge and a high squeaky voice, and I totally love his character.
The rest is sort of second tier in the group of seven. Ethan Hawke’s character has some plot to carry, and there’s a throwaway Mexican, Chinese and Indian. Who else? Haley Bennett is a good addition of a woman with a strong character, because you got to have at least one woman in this story filled with fighting men. I’m glad that they circumvented an unnecessary romance. She has a lot of character and a good screen presence.
The story is another aspect where no risks are taken. Nothing wrong with a good old fashioned revenge story, though. It’s a timeless story, and this new version of The Magnificent Seven has successfully filled in the undemanding requirements to make it work. But I think even a toddler could make a revenge story. It’s the most basic and least complicated story that you could make. The best thing that I could say about it is that it is elegant in its simplicity. And it looks good and is edited competently.
All in all, a solid popcorn movie that will give you a good time. It’s the actors that make the movie. You get the feeling that they all like being there and like playing their roles. There’s nothing horrendously wrong with this remake. It sort of proves that if your movie is competent and the director understands the basic reasons why people love the earlier incarnations of the story, then a remake can still be a good time.