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The Filmaholic Reviews: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Posted on the 23 September 2016 by Filmaholic Reviews @FilmaholicRvews

The Filmaholic Reviews: The Magnificent Seven (2016)When you think "Westerns", what do you automatically imagine? You probably picture rugged cowboys chewing cigars, having a standoff in a dusty town square with tumbleweeds rolling by in the wind. You also picture horses, saloons, and vast, barren landscapes. Of course, not all Westerns are this cliché. The best films of the genre include classics like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Wild Bunch. Westerns aren’t made very often, but when they pop up, they tend to make an impact, such as with Unforgiven, Open Range, True Grit, and Django Unchained. It’s a flexible genre, and judging from all the films mentioned previously, it has been reimagined countless times over the years.
That brings us to The Magnificent Seven, which is a remake of The Magnificent Seven from 1960, which is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Seven Samurai (1954). Imagine a standard Western, and The Magnificent Seven is exactly that. Except this time, it is pure popcorn entertainment, and it kicks ass. It boasts a star-studded cast, has tons of action, and is directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer). As complete movie packages go, it is certainly one of this year’s most attractive.
But how does the movie itself fare? Well, it’s not perfect. The story is bare-bones simple. A small town is terrorized by super-evil mining tycoon Bartholomew Bogue (a slimy Peter Sarsgaard), who is forcing people out of their homes to take their land and murdering any who resist. One of his victims is the husband of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), who seeks justice. She seeks out a ragtag band of bounty hunters, gamblers, and thieves – seven, to be precise – to protect the townspeople and prepare for an inevitable showdown with Bogue.
The Filmaholic Reviews: The Magnificent Seven (2016)
I have no faults with the story; it’s a classic good versus evil tale. The problem is in the execution. The film’s prologue is brutal and harrowing, as we bear witness to Bogue’s heartless deeds. It does an effective, if unsubtle, job of setting up the villain of the piece. However, the rest of the first half of the film is incredibly rushed, which is unfortunate given the large cast. As the group of seven is formed, each member is briefly introduced (name and occupation, basically), and automatically becomes part of the group without any real buildup or any character development. And these are colorful characters who deserve backstory so that we care about them, instead of simply liking them because they are the good guys.
I have no issues with the acting. The film boasts a huge, A-list cast, and they all do a solid job. Denzel Washington (Training Day) is bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, who drifts throughout the frontier hunting his next paycheck. Denzel is his usual calm, cool, charismatic self here, basically using his natural gravitas to anchor the entire film. Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) lightens things up as wisecracker and gambler Josh Faraday. Pratt gets quite a bit of screen time and gets a lot of the best lines in the film. Ethan Hawke (Training Day) is Goodnight Robicheaux, an ex-military sniper who spends his time drinking and traveling with his partner Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee from G.I. Joe). Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) is squeaky-voiced hunter, Jack Horne, who is the brawn over brains. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is Vasquez, a Mexican outlaw befriended by Chisolm. Rounding out the pack is Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest, a Comanche warrior. Like I mentioned previously, a cast this large deserves more time spent with the characters to flesh them out. Apart from being “the good guys”, there isn’t a whole lot to say about them.
The Filmaholic Reviews: The Magnificent Seven (2016)
The more interesting characters who have to flex their acting chops include Haley Bennett (The Equalizer), the revenge-seeking widow. Sadly, her role functions more like window dressing since the script barely gives her much to do except cry and do some shooting. Granted, she is the emotional core of the story, since her husband’s murder sets off the plot, but it’s hard not to feel for her character just based on her circumstances.
Really, the actor having the most fun was probably Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine, Orphan), who overacts gloriously as Bogue, the villain. Sarsgaard has played the villain in numerous films, and he is always very good at it. Here, he steps it up a notch by being completely one-note evil, and it is not a subtle performance at all. The beginning of the film has him burning down a church, with the flames roaring behind him as if he were literally the devil emerging from the pits of hell. Really, the only thing Sarsgaard could do to appear more evil would be to twirl his mustache.

The Filmaholic Reviews: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Spoiler: Sadly, he does not twirl his mustache in the film.

As interesting as the characters are, they sadly take second fiddle to the action sequences. Granted, most people watching the film probably came to see the action, but having a stronger emotional connection to the characters would make the action resonate more. But what do I know? Explosions and guns equal box office dollars, right?
Anyway, once the seven are assembled, they begin preparation for the climax of the film, which takes up most of the second half of the film. I have to say that I don’t think there’s been a Western with this much violence in it since The Wild Bunch. The final battle is over half an hour of prolonged gun battles and explosions, and it is pretty damn exciting. Director Antoine Fuqua doesn’t shy away from a massive body count; at least a hundred people are killed throughout the course of this film, sometimes in a very brutal fashion. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of blood in the film, but people are shot point-blank in the head and others killed execution-style. And of course, it is rated PG-13. Just add more blood and F-words and make it rated R already. But what do I know? PG-13 equals box office dollars, right?
So, is The Magnificent Seven magnificent? I’d argue that the action sequences are magnificent, in that they are intense and quite spectacular. As a film overall? It certainly doesn’t follow up to the original Magnificent Seven, and is definitely no Seven Samurai, but those are unfair comparisons to make. Having expectations that high for this film would only result in disappointment. Really, the biggest disappointment was that the characters weren’t fleshed out enough. If the film had about 20 minutes of extra time with the characters, it would have made for a much better film. As a Western, The Magnificent Seven has all of the Western trappings, and all of the clichés. The bottom line: As pure popcorn entertainment goes, The Magnificent Seven is good times at the theater.
©Filmaholic Reviews, 2016

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