Film Review: The Magnificent Seven

I wouldn’t quite go with “magnificent” as the superlative for this remake of the classic western, but Pretty Good Seven just doesn’t quite bode as well for ticket sales. And Rootin’ Tootin’ Revolver Shootin’ Seven was a straight up veto…

Unless they’re set out in the serenity of space, westerns aren’t really my go to genre of film. But it doesn’t take more than seeing High Noon years ago in an intro to film class to understand that The Magnificent Seven wouldn’t feel disrespected for being called stereotypical. Does this version change anything from the original 60’s film? I highly doubt it. Luckily I’m coming in with fresh eyes.

For those who haven’t seen the trailer, the premise is simple: a band of seven “undesirable” men are tasked with saving a town from a greedy opportunist who has set the poor people under the heel of his boot. We see them come together, odds be damned, and everything is eventually riddled with bullets. Add a tumbleweed and throw someone through the saloon window and we have ourselves a movie.

These unlikely heroes are quite the sight for sore eyes, and just quite the sight in general in the context of the wild west seeing as all the white characters have a tendency to gawk. With all this understandable attention brought to the multicultural blend of our band of seven, I often found myself wondering how each and every man found themselves to be here, but anyone hoping for some deeper storytelling is going to be sorely disappointed. Not only do we not really get any exposition on character backgrounds, but the biggest aggravation is that Denzel Washington’s Chisolm is the only man who gives any real reason as to why he’s willing to risk his life for this random patch of dirt. Maybe I expect too much, or too little of humans, really; all I know is when you are asked point blank why you are willing to die for strangers when all we know about you is that you are a drunken thief, not answering the question is not good enough when decent storytelling is concerned. “I had nowhere else to be,” is also not an acceptable answer, for that matter. Yet this is all we get.

Instead of building backgrounds for the majority of the characters, The Magnificent Seven is plenty comfortable sticking to simply playing off the cultural differences of each character, with most moments between the characters working mostly because of the charisma of the actors playing them. Thankfully each and every actor has the ability to pull the audience in. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier… I know copying the first seven credits on the IMDB page isn’t all that exciting, but everyone really does deserve a shout out for their part in the film, both in the bonding moments and in the action.

And boy is there action. It’s no 13 Assassins when it comes to the unrelenting clash of the final showdown (I still need to see Seven Samurai for those wondering why I haven’t mentioned it), but boy is it fun. And well done. Even as the predictable moments came up to keep the battle escalating, I couldn’t help but be completely immersed in the action. I was bummed that no one was thrown head over heels off the balcony of a building, but I couldn’t really ask for much more from this showdown. Which is good considering so much of the movie’s entertainment value is reliant on it.

So yes, The Magnificent Seven isn’t quite magnificent. It’s stereotypical and lacking in depth, but boy is it fun. See it because it is full of super attractive men, see it because Peter Sarsgaard gives an amazing performance as the evil industrialist, or see it for the final showdown. Just see it.

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