Despite great casting, there is so much potential for this to go horribly, horribly wrong. Already trying to do a remake of not only a great classic western, but the original film upon which even THAT was based, The Seven Samurai, by the legendary director, Akira Kurasawa. It’s one thing to take a Japanese film and translate it into an American context, but to then take that already cool American western and try to duplicate it, well, you may as well be trying to remake a classic like Hitchcock’s Psycho. I mean, why the Hell would anyone bother to even consider such a – oh, right. Oookay, well, we all know how that turned out.
Listen, even if you take a solid director, and a solid cast, you can’t always make a great film. It’s what’s on the page that gives you a good structure to work with. And here, the script written by Nic Pizzolatto (Season 2 of True Detective) and Richard Wenk (The Equalizer 1 and now 2, 16 Blocks, Expendables 2, The Mechanic ), just isn’t quite strong enough to make this remake of The Magnificent Seven memorable enough to come close to the material of either of the films it sources.
The small western town of Rose Creek wants to be out from the grip of it’s oppressor, inspiringly named, Bartholomew Bogue, played to evil perfection by Peter Sarsgaard. So, the townspeople hire a man, Chislom (Denzel Washington) to dispose of him. Chisolm gathers up six more men with unique talents to help him fight this man and his army of henchman.
Yeah, most of us know the story. And it all plays out rather by-the-numbers, for the most part. I suppose if you had nothing to compare it to; had never even seen the 1960 Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen version, then you might find this entertaining. And frankly, this new version does have it’s moments. There are some good sequences and gun fights. And even a couple of decent moments between the actors.
But for the most part, this most excellent cast, which consists of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier, is never truly used to their potential. There seems not to be enough character development here. Denzel, who is generally consistently watchable, charismatic, is left pretty flat here. Even Chris Pratt is only Ok, doing his now common snarky, ladies man bit. Sure, he’s fine, but nothing new here except perhaps the ability to do card tricks.
Ethan Hawke, who I like, is pretty good, too but his character’s actions can be spotted a mile before he does them. This is really more of a fault with the script than his. Only Peter Sarsgaard and Vincent D’Onofrio truly make something unique of their roles, even if it’s still a bit thin in back story. D’Onofrio gives his grizzled tacker/trapper Jack Horne some interesting character traits that makes us feel a bit more for him. And Sarsgaard opens up a family-sized can of Evil motherf-cker as the Mining Baron, Bogue. One good thing here is that they really make you understand how bad this guy is. There is no question about good and evil here. It’s definitely black and white – absolutely no grey.
I feel like of the two writers on this, Nic Pizzolatto might have been the better choice. But perhaps they hired Richard Wenk for his feature film experience. There is a superficial summer blockbuster feel here when I think a more careful, dramatic touch would have been better. Some of this problem is clearly in the cinematography and direction. But the cheesy dialogue is script-based. Perhaps Antoine Fuqua wasn’t the right choice to direct this.
I guess can see why some people are enjoying this. It’s a western, which we don’t get so much these days, and the cast attracts people. But it’s all a bit off for me. It doesn’t have the sweeping cinematography that a western should have. And most of the shots of people interacting with each other are talking head shots.
I’m going to marginally give The Magnificent Seven remake about two and a half kittenhands. It’s good for a plane or maybe if you see it on streaming, but I don’t think you should pay theater money for this. I had a gift pass for this that I ended up not being able to use, and I came out somewhat disappointed.
~ Neil T Weakley, your average movie-goer, thinking you should either go back and watch the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven, or just watch Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.