The Magnificent Seven came out this week and was directed by Antoine Fuqua, who also brought us films like Training Day, Tears of the Sun, Shooter, Olympus has Fallen, The Equalizer, and Southpaw… wow, it’s really hard to get a read on this guy. Having seen some of these for myself, I can say that Fuqua seems to be hit-or-miss, but doesn’t really make anything that’s just straight up bad. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work, I would recommend Training Day and Tears of the Sun.
Before this film came out, I heard a lot of people (particuarly people of a more experienced age than myself) complaining about how many classic films have experienced reboots this year (Ghostbusters and Ben Hur being the other two big titles). However, I found that I was constantly having to remind these people that the “original” Magnificent Seven (1960) is, itself, a remake. Six years before (that’s 1954 for those of you who need help with the math) one of the greatest directors of all time, Akira Kurosawa, released his masterpeice, Seven Samurai. Thinking that American audiences wouldn’t appreciate a simple english version of the film, John Sturges and company decided to retell the story in a Wild West setting. I say all of that to encourage those whom hold the 1960 film of the same name close to their heart, to step back and let go of any harsh judgemet or contempt they might have before even giving this version a chance.
I have to admit that this film really surprised me. Seeing the trailers made me think that this was going to be a Michael Bay-esque attempt at a Western, containing outrageous action sequences and a half-assed plot. The other thing that worried me about the film was its premise: seven unlikely heroes banding together to save a town from a seemingly unstoppable villain (remind you of anything?). These “Team-Hero” movies that we keep getting are typically laughable when it comes to developing their main characters, as they usually resort to focusing on only two or three characters in a “team” of seven or eight.
However, this film was very careful in the way that it introduced its main characters. Each character’s intro scene put them in short situations that quickly show the audience what the character is like and what their specific talents might be. It doesn’t hit you with a lazy title card and freeze frame that tries to cram five minutes of potential character developtment into 5 seconds (looking at you, Suicide Squad). So, with the exception of one or two on our team of seven, each character brings their own unique personality, backstory, and talent to the team. We know and understand (almost) everyone’s motivations for their actions, and we actually get to know them well enough to have some kind of emotional connection with at least one or two of the characters depending on who you like the most. And they really leave that part up to you, because with the exception of Denzel Washington, everyone gets basically the same amount of screen time and development.
I won’t go too much into the plot, because it is very similar (nearly identical, really) to the two films that preceed it. But I will say that it is not overly complicated and definitley doesn’t have any filler or fluff. The pacing throughout the entire film was really on point. It’s not action sequence after action sequence (there are really only 2.5 “big” action sequences in the whole movie); rather, it takes time to really let you get to know the charaters between the action, and lets you know what’s at stake for everyone involved.
This aspect of the film also really surprised me. Don’t get me wrong, I do like Chris Pratt, but he is quickly becoming one of the most overused actors in Hollywood. However, he was really enjoyable to watch in this film because it was a little more serious than his previous work, but he still brings that charm and charisma that he has really become known for.
As expected, Denzel Washington knocks this one out of the park, though I have to give a lot of props to the writers. His character is obviously the main character and leader of the film, but we actually don’t get a lot of his backstory until the very end of the movie. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just simply state that the wait is well worth it.
The man that stole the show for me (and for a lot of other people, it would seem) was Vincent D’Onofrio (known for his role as the Kingpin in Netflix’s original series, “Daredevil,” and as the alien in Men in Black) as Jack Horne. His character brought a surprising amount of humor and emotion to the film that I really did not expect.
Fuqua doesn’t offer anything new or revolutionary to the Western/Action genre, but the use of practical effects and simple editing really make this film stand out from other action movies that have come out in recent years. The action is easy to follow and doesn’t give you a headcahe from watching it. This film might have receieved a lower score here if this was the norm, but sadly, it is not, and so it stands out.
Much of the score is a recall to the 1960 version of this film and has a lot of that classic Western style music that we all know and love. While the score of the 1960 version is great, this film doesn’t offer much that is new or original, so I must take off points for that.
X-Factor: 8/10; In anything if you want to go, from just a begginer to a pro, you need a
Montage. After the first Rocky movie, montages seemed to pop up everywhere. It was as if film makers suddenly thought that a quick work out session with some up-tempo but serious rock music would suddenly motivate audiences to put their own work and effort into their own lives. Fret not, dear reader, this film does not contain a scene of the townsfolk learning how to fight while “Bad Company” plays in the background. Instead, Fuqua offers a new alternative to the montage; what if we show people trying to learn how to do something, show that they can’t do it, and give our characters an insane amount of development in a quick two minute scene?
The Maginificent Seven, as I said earlier, really surprised me. It is definitely the film-to-see in the next week or two, and I would recommend it to any potential movie-goers. I was also surprised to find that the film is actually PG-13, because it doesn’t seem to let up on the seriousness of the violence that takes place in the film, so props to the editing team for that.