Thursday, September 29, 2016

Movie Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) (Review #2)

The Magnificent Seven is director Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the classic tale first put to cinema in the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece Seven Samurai. This follows in a rich history of remakes of that film, including being a namesake remake of the John Sturges Magnificent Seven from 1960. In this story we follow Chisolm (Denzel Washington) as he sets up a team of various gunslingers and warriors after agreeing to protect a town that is being terrorized by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his gang. This film is distinct from all those previous versions with largely new characters and an action packed conclusion that makes this one of the most fun westerns we’ve seen in years.

This film has a lot of strengths, the first and paramount of which is its success in furthering the material. Although this ties to a weakness, I actually thought this film did what a remake should do by bringing something genuinely new to the table. Seven Samurai is one of the most complete and great films ever, but it has a slow and deliberate pace that makes it more difficult to watch and get invested in. The Magnificent Seven (1960) is a film that has great characterization and personality but lacks in the quality of its action climax. This new iteration has some weaknesses in characterization (which I will get to) but brings an action cinematography, pacing, and stunt work that makes it tonnes of fun to watch and will make it a lasting film in the canon of these films.

Another real strength of this film is the personality that emanates from the actors in this film. Every member of the Magnificent Seven (Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Byung-hun Lee, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier) gives you some reason to get invested in them just by how charming, intriguing, or epic they are portrayed as characters. They certainly do lack emotional layers, but what they do bring is a magnetic screen presence that was absolutely captivating.

The last real strength of the film I want to call out is the directing and cinematography. Fuqua clearly does a great job getting everything together and his work with cinematographer Mauro Fiore led to some excellent shot design that is a strikingly brilliant in modern western cinema.

This new version of The Magnificent Seven has some serious weaknesses though and fails to build on a lot of the core emotional and character layers from the earlier versions. Unlike the 1960 version, this film deviates far from Seven Samurai, and even the 1960 film, by using completely different characters with different stereotypical personalities. Although there are some benefits from this, the film doesn’t do much from there and the emotional core and layers of character that existed in those films were completely absent in this one. Everyone is very thinly developed (if they get developed at all) and many of the emotional moments in the film don’t land and you don’t care that much about any of their eventual fates.

I also thought there were many points of dialogue, and other plot points, that felt really overly convenient and took me out of the film. It also demonstrates some of the starkest examples of “plot armor” I’ve seen in a long time which did make parts of it feel a little bit irrelevant.

Despite it’s serious story and characterization flaws, The Magnificent Seven is a wildly fun time and a beautifully shot and assembled western that could (and should) serve as a revival for the genre to the masses. We’ve seen a lot of great neo-westerns and westerns in recent years and if we can marry those with the excitement Fuqua offered in this film we could see a new area of great films set in the old west! 

Ryan's Score: 7.5/10

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