The verdict is out and “Magnificent Seven” is as magnificent as it predecessors.
It’s been fifty-six years since the release of the “Magnificent Seven” (1960) and six more since the release of the twice re-imagined and original “Seven Samurai” (1954 ). Both films are spectacular in their own right, as most old-fashioned action movies are. With significantly fewer special effects and technology, older films like “Magnificent Seven” and “Seven Samurai” demanded creativity and a talented cast to make their films successful. Perfection was expected and perfection was delivered. That is why “Seven Samurai” and “Magnificent Seven” are so hard to beat in terms of quality and only the bravest of cast and crew would dare to recreate the masterpieces.
Fear didn’t stop Antoine Fuqua from taking the plunge, though. And it’s a good thing, too, because “Magnificent Seven” soared past my expectations.
“Magnificent Seven” opens in the small town of Rose Creek, filled with farmers and honest people trying to make a life for themselves. That is until Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) lays claim on the mines of gold just outside the peaceful town. During a resistance meeting of villagers, Bogue burns down the town’s church and murders a handful of the unarmed men. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), whom was widowed as a result of Bogue’s violent tirade, seeks out Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) in an attempt to take their land back. Together they recruit a small army for the righteousness and revenge of her hometown. With a large bag of gold and list of magnificent men, they round up a boozy card player, a battle-scarred soldier, a trigger happy outlaw, a Comanche warrior, a less-than-gentle giant and man who makes expert swordsmanship look like child’s play.
As someone who has seen the 1960 version of the film, I know the mix of excitement, dread, anger and apprehension that comes with the remake of a fan-favorite. You want the film to succeed, but you can’t help pointing out every possible flaw as it comes to your attention. Nowadays, where film recreations and book adaptations are becoming more popular, there are more let downs than triumphs.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) are perfect examples of this anticipation-built disappointment. Since both of these original films are renowned worldwide and highly recognized for their filmic perfection, the 2015 releases had very large shoes to fill. Now, that’s not to say that the 2015 films were anything short of visually pleasing, box office successes. However in many ways the remakes are candles held to campfires.
So how is “Magnificent Seven” different from the rest? Not only does it stick very close to the same tone of the original film, but it actually manages to fix some of the original film’s inadequacies.
Sticking to the original story line, sweet and simple, doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for surprises, but the outstanding cast more than makes up for the narrative’s lack of originality. Martin Sensmsier, Byung-hun Lee, Denzel Washington, and Manuel Garcia-Ruflo create a level of diversity that forms a more realistic take on the Old-West, in place of the typically white-male dominated portrayals.
Let’s not forget our widely-shared guilty pleasure for gun play. As in all good action movies, fight scenes often showcases the skill of one man against many. Magnificent Seven doesn’t disappoint, in this respect. Every fight scene has you white-knuckling the handles of your movie theater seat. Its two hours and thirteen minutes of clenched teeth and unblinking eyes. What I really had to appreciate was the individual fighting styles that spoke for each character flawlessly. They all had fury and prowess through each onscreen struggle.
But, you can’t win them all over. Like every film, some critics cannot admire the film for what it is and morn for what its not. Michelle Orange, on Rotten Tomatoes, had this to say:
“In their few scenes together, Hawke and Washington, so vital in Fuqua’s Training Day, hold the screen with sheer chemistry, and perhaps a bit of history. If only this film had known what to do with the richness of its raw material.”
She is right about one thing, Hawke and Washington performed beautifully on screen and with a chemistry most actors would kill for. The entire cast brought their best to the table with a genuineness that makes you forget it’s just a role they’re paid to play. It was a movie worthy of its name and deserves credit for its outstanding performances.