Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Seven gunmen are hired by a woman who is desperate to save her town and avenge her husband’s murder.
This is not a remake of the original nor is it a reimagining. It is much more another version of the Seven Samurai in a Western setting than it is anything else. It is still a couple of gunmen protecting a small town. Not an uncommon concept in the Western at any point. If you are going to slap the name of a great Western on a movie then actually remake that western. If not, then pick another name. Be brave. Do not try to leech off the nostalgia of the original. I will not refer to this as a remake or a reimagining. I will call it “namesake” because I feel that is as close as one can get and be accurate. They create characters meant to closely mimic those in the original by not be directly related. It is like expecting Oreos and getting one of those off brand sandwich cookies instead.
The Magnificent Seven are:
- Denzel Washington plays Sam Chisolm who is the replacement character for Chris Adams (Yul Brynner). Chisolm’s search for vengeance against the villain never felt important to the plot. It was certainly important to the character, but it was never important to the plot. It felt added on at the last minute. The details only became clear and significant during the resolution of the film.
- Chris Pratt plays the Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen) knockoff Joshua Faraday who is a troubled gambler. McQueen is a tough act to follow and Pratt does well enough here.
- Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne is perhaps the standout here. Then again, D’Onofrio is a great actor that can elevate his material. He is a devoutly religious man capable of extreme violence. Supposedly this character replaces O’Reilly who was portrayed by Charles Bronson. Other than being the muscle, the characters have little in common.
- Ethan Hawke is Goodnight Robicheaux who is really a renamed Lee (Robert Vaughn) from the original only this time with far more serious PTSD and a really cool sidekick in Billy Rocks.
- Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) takes over for Britt (James Coburn) because a knife throwing character that bares little resemblance to the previous character is required.
- Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is Vasquez who is supposed to replace Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) from the original. How? Got me.
- Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest takes the place of Chico (Horst Buchholz) from the original as well as serving to bring the character count to seven. He joins up in exactly the same way as Chico.
It is a serviceable enough film but it has little resemblance to that from which it gets its name. It lacks the character growth that the hired gunmen in the original had. In the original, the characters are all kind of crappy people in one way or another. They had problems but they found a kind of redemption by helping the poor Mexican townsfolk. And they had storylines with beginning and middles and ends. Not so much here.
The storylines for the characters in this 2016 film just kind of end. You get teased with the possibility they could get a happy ending and then it just stops. Not that such a story element is necessarily a bad thing. It is just the stories lack a logical conclusion for the character. They die and are lovingly planted in obviously CGI plots by the cowardly citizens that they saved.
The individual characters were interesting. Separately they would all be interesting supporting characters but together they made something less. They were not noble warriors, nor did they evolve into such but rather went from people that took a job to those stuck finishing that job. It feels like they stay because if they run then work will be tough to come by. Robicheaux though comes back because apparently he abruptly conquered the PTSD that caused him to avoid killing. It felt contrived.
Emma (Haley Bennett) felt like a Mary Sue character. She was way too capable and significantly more upset than the rest of the town. While her husband Matthew (Matt Bomer) was killed by Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), you would think his death would cause more of a kerfuffle than it did with the people. Plus, of all the cowed townsfolk, she was the ONLY one capable of effectively using a gun from the looks of it. These settlers were ridiculously unskilled with firearms for a group of people that would often need to depend on them for food or protection.
The threat in a story does not need to affect the world, but it does need to be significant to the world of the characters. In the namesake, while the characters did not save the world or do anything great, they did save the world of the townsfolk and what they did for those people was massive. Here they just save the town. As demonstrated shortly before the final attack, these citizens can up and leave as compared to the people in the original. In the original they had nowhere to go. It was that town or nothing.
Bogue is a generic heartless industrialist closer to the villain in Chisum than he is to Calvera from the legendary 1960 original. His motivation is money rather than petty power over a weaker group. It makes him less of a villain in my view.
I would be kinder to this film if it had not used the name of a great movie, but it decided to do just that. It tried to suckle off the nostalgia and of the reputation of something better when what we got was something entertaining but not in the same league. We did not even get a similar film. There are vague similarities but not enough to call them truly connected movies.
The Magnificent Seven on its own is a good movie but with the legendary name attached it feels like so much less. Try to separate your feelings for the original if you have any for it from this film and you will probably like it. You may even watch it again. I just wish they had not named it what they did.