Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee
Running Time: 132 minutes
Release Date: September 23rd
The Magnificent Seven is a fitting remake for the internet generation. It’s an easily-digestible romp that’s all style, fury and slick action. Yet no amount of bullets, bravado or brash machismo can hide the gaping void at the heart of the film. The film’s premise will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the John Sturges original or Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. Seven unlikely heroes come together to defend a village that’s being terrorised by a band of villains.
Quite why these misfits would take on this “impossible” mission remains a bit of a mystery but you get used to asking “Why?” in the course of this film. The remake takes a cavalier approach to character development so it encourages the audience to fill in the gaps.
Anyone expecting the charm or personality of the earlier films is likely to be disappointed. Instead, we’re gradually introduced to a bunch of sullen misfits who appear to have spent their lives working up to being western stereotypes. So there’s a fearless leader, the wild card, the traumatised soldier, the backwoods tracker, the token Mexican, the Asian knife guy and the stoical Native American. Yet a strong cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio somehow carries the film over the line by sheer force of personality.
There’s a decided lack of depth to these characters, but it’s amazing what a good cast can cover up. Haley Bennett’s villager offers hints of substance, but she gets increasingly marginalised by the film’s need to show cool people doing cool stuff. Having said that, you can’t accuse director Antoine Fuqua of not knowing his way around an action sequence. And the film’s premise holds up pretty well. The recruitment montage offers up some memorable set pieces and Fuqua injects plenty of visual flair into the film as it builds to a climactic showdown. So if you want to veg out and watch a lot of stylised gunfighting, you’ll probably quite enjoy it.
The biggest problem is that it lacks emotional punch and you just never really feel invested in the undercooked characters. You don’t really care what happens to them. So The Magnificent Seven goes through the motions, but you’re constantly left to wonder what might have been if the cast had been served with better writing. Ultimately, that only leaves the gunfights, the character intros and the pretty camera shots. And that just isn’t enough to redeem this decent but uninspired remake.