Review: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua | 133 minutes | action, adventure, western | Actors: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Joss, Cam Gigandet, Emil Beheshti, Mark Ashworth, Billy Slaughter, Dodge Prince, Matthew Posey, Carrie Lazar, Jody Mullins

Westerns seem to be irrelevant for quite some time now. Preference is given to some more flashy action these days. Only niche directors like Quentin Tarantino really dare to try it. In his hands a film often turns into a loaded epic of about three hours. Where has the fun of real cowboy movies gone, the charismatic rascals and the dozens of stuntmen eager to jump through windows? Director Antoine Fuqua has the answers and gives fans of the genre a remake of the classic ‘The Magnificent Seven’ in an attempt to breathe new life into the western.

The plot of the film has remained unchanged since Kurosawa came up with ‘Seven Samurai’ in 1954. A few hopeful residents of a poor farming town enlist the help of a bunch of anti-heroes to fight the villains that besiege them. The story has always been simple in concept but effective in execution. In 1960, Hollywood attempted to tell this story, turned the samurai into cowboys, changed the title (‘The Magnificent Seven’, of course), and the film once again became a classic. So a remake, but this updated version is much more fun than initially expected.

A reinterpretation of a classic can often seem a bit perfunctory, because the same themes and plot points have to be dealt with. Forced throwbacks are often inevitable, but Fuqua knows how to give it a very fresh twist. He goes more for creating a certain atmosphere instead of taking over classic scenes one on one. This gives the director the space to review his usual cool action scenes. The shoot-outs are therefore the highlight of ‘The Magnificent Seven’, almost the entire third act is covered and it is a pleasure to behold.

It also helps that Fuqua enlists the help of a number of very charismatic actors. Audience favorite Chris Pratt sometimes feels a little too modern like the chatty Josh Faraday with his many one-liners, but Pratt’s visible fun makes this fact forgivable. This also applies (albeit to a lesser extent) to the crazy high-pitched voice that Vincent D’Onofrio puts up in the role of the muscle-bound Jack Horne. Denzel Washington (with whom Fuqua has worked with before) also shows that same pleasure and is a good choice for Chisolm, the leader of the whole bunch. The only blemish is then unfortunately the shortcoming that the company has to overcome. Peter Sarsgaard serves as the scruffy businessman Bartholomew Bogue but appears too little to leave a lasting impression.

It soon becomes clear that Fuqua is not going for a straightforward remake of the older films. Nowhere does he frantically try to match or improve on the classics. What the director delivers is a fine end product that the viewer can enjoy. Add to that the visibly enjoying cast and the western genre seems to be on the ground again, even if only for two very enjoyable hours.

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