Film Grains: The Magnificent Seven (2016) by David Hart

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Anticipation:     2/5    When we did our podcast episode on The Equalizer, my guest and I discussed our fears of Antoine Fuqua taking on a huge cast and a treasured film property like The Magnificent Seven. I even watched the “original” (itself a remake of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai) in preparation for the new film. So, anticipation was certainly not huge, but what a cast, right? Maybe Fuqua could make this work…

Final Verdict:    2.5/5   …Or not. So, watching the 1960 version was probably a huge mistake. Now, as you can tell from the rating, this is not an awful film.  It’s also not particularly good. That does not mean that there isn’t anything enjoyable about the film. The cast clearly likes each other a lot, and seems to be having fun.  Some of that comes across, thankfully. Unsurprisingly, Fuqua’s version rids itself of pesky things like subtlety, nuance, and a powerful message.

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The Magnificent Seven, of course, is the story of seven guns for hire that agree to shield a small defenseless town. Yes, they are paid, but certainly not their usual rate, and all have their own reasons for continuing on this likely suicide mission. This new version stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier as the titular seven, as well as Haley Bennett (the woman who asks them for help) and Peter Sarsgaard (the villain).

So I said there were things to like here. Denzel is fantastic as a cowboy. He’s got that stoic readiness that oozes old western. Ethan Hawke and Byung-Hun Lee practically steal this movie, despite a ridiculously obvious turn in the final act of the film. But seriously, I would watch the adventures of these two over the final product here, any day. Peter Sarsgaard is also a bright spot, I only wish we got more of him. For being the actual villain of the piece, we get little of his fantastic snarl, which is just on the verge of scenery chewing at all times. Haley Bennett is fine, but is not given much to do. I also found it odd that they costumed her more like an old west prostitute than as a woman farmer in this town. But yeah, Fuqua strikes again.  He has not exactly been a progressive filmmaker in that area.

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There were a few bad performances here, and it surprised me. I love Chris Pratt. I own Jurassic World, for god’s sake. And his casting as a lovable rogue seems perfect on paper. But, it just does not work. At all. His jokes fall flat. His relationship with Denzel’s character has zero depth. We do not care about him. If you’ve seen the original, you will know that this is a problem. If you don’t care about the seven, then they are no better than the villains. In the original film, there is a good amount of character building and true enjoyment between the seven. That is missing here. Yet, without all the characterization, Fuqua manages to add seven (ha!) minutes to the runtime and much, much worse pacing. And Vincent D’Onofrio. Oh dear. He’s another actor I absolutely adore and he certainly made some interesting choices, but they didn’t make much sense. As such, those choices make sure you don’t root for his character in the least.

So, I cannot easily recommend this one. Given all of it’s moving parts, and the people involved, this should have been a much better film. It should have been more fun. And, as I mentioned, there are fun moments. Just not enough for me to fully enjoy the 2 + hours running time. So unless you absolutely love every actor involved AND love westerns AND have a great deal of patience, I would say wait for a cheap rental price or for the tombstone to appear on Netflix.

The Magnificent Seven Trailer

Be sure to check out David’s Podcast Pop Culture Case Study 

What did you think of The Magnificent Seven? Sound off in the comments below!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Lee Brady says:

    Loved this review David, we touch on a lot of the same points and criticisms, particularly when it comes to Bennett’s character and it’s a relief not to be the only one seeing a trend in Fuqua’s work so far.
    I didn’t go into it because I try not to make too much comparisons with remakes (I also haven’t seen the original Magnificent Seven, but I have watched Seven Samurai, so there’s a parallel in sympathies), but you absolutely nailed it with the characterisation being absolutely critical in rooting for the seven over the “villains”; in this adaptation, we’re basically given more reasons to side with the comparitively fair Skarsgaard character, who at least offers to pay for the land, over these racist murders!

    Great reading :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jordan Dodd says:

    Can’t say I’m a fan of Fuqua at all, and this certainly wasn’t lacking in subtlety. But I seem to in the minority, I had an absolute blast! A 2+ hour film has never felt so short! But the more I read other reviews, the more I realise the faults that are there. But for me, as I was watching, none of them bothered me. Hell, I usually HATE Chris Pratt but enjoyed him here. His wisecracks didn’t land for sure, but I thought he did a decent job restraining himself. As for Vincent, you didn’t like his performance? I thought it was great, he is this beast of a man wielding an axe, but he is also a god-fearing soul. I wanted to see more of him!

    At least we can agree on Denzel though, damn he nailed it. How about his intro scene? Wow!!

    Another excellent review my friend, I’ll be book-marking this site for sure :)

    Liked by 1 person

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