“Took a job, looking for some men to join me,” says the bounty hunter Chisolm (Denzel Washington). “Is it difficult?” asks the gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt). “Impossible,” replies Chisolm. “How many you got so far?” asks Faraday. “You and me,” answers Chisolm with a big grin on his face as the two men join forces and set out to find other talented gunman to join them in the 2016 remake of the 1960s classic Western film, The Magnificent Seven.
It’s 1879 and the town of Rose Creek has been taken over by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), an industrialist who’s interested in the gold mine just outside of town. In order to keep the town under his control, he has bought off the sheriff and his deputies and brought in his own ruthless men to scare the citizens into submission. After Bogue once again intimidates the townspeople by burning the church and killing a few men who speak out, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) – who has just been made a widow – makes it her business to take everything of value she and the other townspeople have and use it to buy hired guns to take Bogue on. She finds Chisolm who responds to her request for help by saying he’s been offered a lot in his line of work but never everything. Chisolm accepts and talks Faraday into the job by buying his horse back after he lost it in a bet.
The two men set out to find other men who can handle themselves with weapons to join them in their quest. These include a Southern gentleman and Civil War veteran/sharpshooter named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his partner Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw called Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a young Indian warrior named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and a frontiersman tracker and trapper named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio). Chisolm and his six hired killers come together to both defend the people of Rose Creek and to get them ready for the bloody showdown that’s coming between them and Bogue’s men.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, who directed Hawke and Washington in the Oscar-winning Training Day, The Magnificent Seven has a strong cast and breathtaking cinematography but fails to reach the level of greatness, depth, character development and memorable action scenes that the original film did so magnificently. Denzel Washington is well cast as Chisolm, the leader of the seven who picks the right men to join him and seems to know how his enemy Bogue will come after them. Unfortunately it’s a character type that Washington has played many times before so while it’s a solid performance, it’s not one of his stand-out roles.
Two actors who really do stand out with their impressive performances are Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio. Hawke is captivating as the Southern Civil War vet (nicknamed the Angel of Death) whose struggle with fear and doubt get the better of him. His character is modeled after Robert Vaughn’s in the original but Hawke’s performance here is even better than Vaughn’s – a true accomplishment indeed. D’Onofrio is perfectly quirky and at times very funny as the tracker/trapper Horne, a God-fearing man who comes to respect and admire his colleagues and considers it a true honor to be defending the good people of Rose Creek from Bough, a man he dubs “a true evil.” D’Onofrio’s Horne is not a reworking of one of the characters from the 1960s film but an original character which makes him all the more interesting.
Chris Pratt’s Faraday is the affable jokester in the group modeled after Steve McQueen’s character Vin in the original film. Pratt even says some of the exact same lines McQueen did in the original movie which makes it impossible not to compare him to McQueen. Pratt is amusing as Faraday but fails to dominate the screen and steal scenes the way McQueen so wonderfully did in the 1960s classic.
The cinematography and scope of the film are visually breathtaking, especially during the journey to Rose Creek while Chisolm and Faraday are seeking other gunmen to join their gang. Some of the shots and camera work are reminiscent of cinematographer Charles Lang’s work in director John Sturges’ film as well as cinematographer Dean Semler’s work in director Kevin Costner’s Western epic Dances with Wolves. The action and shootout scenes are hectic, suspenseful, and chaotic, but aren’t visually memorable.
With a well-rounded cast, two stand-out performances, and beautiful cinematography, The Magnificent Seven doesn’t quite match the flawlessness of the original Seven but is still an exciting, above average, well-executed, and entertaining film in its own right. This version of The Magnificent Seven is one of the few remakes that is not only faithful to the original but also stands on its own, a film any Western movie fan is sure to enjoy. See it.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material
Running Time: 132 minutes
Release Date: September 23, 2016