Wednesday 8 February 2017

The Magnificent Seven

When a remake of the iconic gunslingin’ western The Magnificent Seven was announced, I was sceptical. We all were. I know, I know, The Magnificent Seven itself is technically a remake of Seven Samurai, but I consider it more of a reimagining – it takes the story, sure, but places it in a different genre and setting. This does not. Director Antoine Fuqua takes the cowboys, and the story…Hell, he takes everything. Here’s a film that absolutely should’ve been shit. Here comes the big shock…it isn’t.

Yes, this Magnificent Seven is good. It isn’t perfect, and it obviously will never have the legendary status that the 1960 classic does. But for 2 hours at the movies, you can do a lot worse than this. For anybody who doesn’t know the story, firstly where have you been for the last 50 years? Secondly, it goes a little something like this. A small town in the old west is being terrorised by a nasty bastard and his squad of goons. Desperate for peace and freedom, the townspeople hire a man who puts together a team of 7 gunslingers to ride into town and save the day. But at what cost?

It really is as simple as that. The story is irrelevant – so much so, little effort is put into it here. I was expecting the film’s two-hour runtime to be filled out with inconsequential subplots of romance and conflict among the group but, refreshingly, there was none. The gang got on just fine, there were a few laughs, and the quick pace of the film meant the runtime flew by without any need for shitty filler. That was the film’s biggest surprise, as too many films these days are rammed with nonsensical tangents. A young female character is introduced early on and soon becomes a gunslinger herself – a romance was to be expected between her and one of the 7 men, right? It didn’t happen. There wasn’t even a hint of it. Great, huh? A strong female character in an action film who isn’t there for a romance. There’s somethin’ you don’t see every day.

But at the end of the day, only one point is worth discussing…especially if you’re struggling to find a reason to watch the film. That final battle. Oh, it’s stunning. This was a beautifully choreographed fight that felt like a self-contained western war movie, complete with trenches, explosions and a whole lot of ammunition. It’s worth watching the film for this alone – it could just be one of the greatest screen battles of recent years. But hey, if you only come for the fight then you’ll be pleased to know that the film delivers on all other fronts too. And if you’re a fan of Chris Pratt, you’ll be pleased to know he plays Chris Pratt here…like he does in everything. Denzel Washington mumbles his way through a fair chunk of the film, but dishes out badassery like it’s burning holes in his pockets. Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio are the only other two heroes recognisable to a mainstream audience and they’re both superb, but Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier are all worthy of high praise too. Of course, a film like this is nothing without a strong villain – and while the nasty Bartholomew Bogue doesn’t appear on screen much, his creepy presence is felt throughout thanks to an intense performance from the perpetually unsettling Peter Sarsgaard. And Haley Bennett delivers as the aforementioned strong young lady. 

After all is said and done, The Magnificent Seven isn’t trying to rewrite cinema history here. It knows that it isn’t going to beat the original, or the original original. But it doesn’t need to. It’s just going for a bit of good, old-fashioned blockbuster fun. And it succeeds admirably. The action is exciting and immersive, the film’s script takes a predictable story and keeps it fresh and engrossing, the cast are all great and the music is gorgeous (co-composed by James Horner; his incomplete score was finished by friend Simon Franglen after his untimely death). 

The Magnificent Seven probably won’t be remembered for long. In a few years’ time, it may very well be forgotten – while the original continues its immortality. But for now, this Magnificent Seven is an exciting and entertaining 2 hours, and it is absolutely worth your time.


Sam Love

The Magnificent Seven at CeX

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