The gathering of a band of heroes to fight corruption is the basis for tons of films that span genres as it does countries. One of the first being the legendary Akira Kurosawa’s epic 1954 film “Seven Samurai”. Less than ten years later Hollywood adapted that film for an American audience in the genre that they invented; The Western. “The Magnificent Seven” (1960) followed the same beats as a small town needs protection from bandits intent on destroying their way of life.
Over fifty years later in the thick of reboots, remakes, and remoots, the seven ride onto the big screen once again, this time led by Denzel Washington in Antoine Fuqua’s “The Magnificent Seven”.
As a small mining town is growing weary of living under the boot-heel of a corrupt business man Bartholomew Bouge (Peter Sarsgaard), when they talk about standing up to him, he and his men give them a brutal and deadly reminder of who is in charge. One of the wronged women (Haley Bennett) decides to give all she has to hire men to help her fight. She finds gunslinger Sam Chisolm (Washington) who helps her recruit six men who vary from ethnic background to weapon of choice. You have the gambler (Chris Pratt), the legend (Ethan Hawke), the hunter (Vincent D’Onofrio), the knife-hand (Byung-hun Lee), the outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and the warrior (Martin Sensmeier). Together they attempt to help the town defend itself from the army of bad guys headed right for them.
For director Fuqua, while this is not unfamiliar territory, as he does tend to stick to the action movie genre. Here he sticks strictly to the numbers, crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ to make a passable and enjoyable western. The majority of the weak spots stem from the script by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto who do the same sticking to the classic selling points. But not much else that would give more substance to the characters. The problem is mostly ‘we’ve seen it before’, in the original source material, in “A Bug’s Life”, in “The Avengers”, a rag-tag group of heroes coming together to fight an evil man (or grasshopper) and his minions is never far from our movie consciousness. More was needed, and for sure the performances, mostly from Pratt, Hawke, D’Onofrio, and of course Denzel carried the film to its typical galloping into the sunset (not really a spoiler).
So while there is enough to enjoy the ride, there is little else, which keeps this one from becoming a classic like Kurosawa’s samurai, or John Sturges original seven.
–Robert L. Castillo