The Magnificent Seven: A classic remake of a classic western

Photo courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Columbia Pictures

8 high pitched, overly violent bear men out of 10

“The Magnificent Seven,” starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, is a film you’ve seen before. Even if you hadn’t seen the original Magnificent Seven, you’ve seen this plot in dozens of film and you’ll see it a dozen times more. That could be a turnoff to anyone looking for something new, but it’s still a fun western that I really enjoyed.

The setup is a classic western one, bad guy terrorizes townsfolk so a group of gunslingers are recruited to stop him and his men. The film could have descended into cliché there, but it keeps itself moving and entertaining too consistently for that to become an issue. In fact, despite there arguably only being two gunfights in the entire film, I was never bored because of the pacing. Between introducing a plethora of characters, developing them, and showing little moments of action along with their larger counterparts, we’re left little time where something engaging isn’t happening onscreen.

On that note, character development is actually my biggest gripe about “The Magnificent Seven.” Handling character development in films with an ensemble cast is always rough – a director either has to have incredible economy and efficiency with his shooting and editing or you have to push out your run time to ludicrous lengths. The film does neither, so a handful of characters don’t really ever get developed. Thankfully the acting is at the very least serviceable across the board, so the under-developed characters never feel awkward. Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt on the other hand receive the most attention throughout the film and it shows. They both give us satisfying character arcs, playing versions of themselves that fit perfectly in the film.

As far as the action goes, its classic spaghetti western. Although it often dips into the scale and violence typical of modern films, “The Magnificent Seven” never forgets the long moments of tension preceding action and to put a western flavor on it whatever happens. There’s a fight scene about halfway through the film where all seven of the hired guns finally come together that’s just plain awesome. It takes advantage of the ensemble cast and really emphasizes the uniqueness of each of its individuals. I actually enjoyed that fight much more than the final climactic battle because it felt like the individuality of each character was lost in the scale of it. That’s a minor gripe though, and all in all the film does exactly what it needs to with its action.

Interestingly enough “The Magnificent Seven” (2016) is a remake of a remake. Most people probably know that there is an original Magnificent Seven, one of the classic westerns from the golden age of westerns. But what they probably don’t know is that the original is in and of itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” In fact the seminal “Fist Full of Dollars” is also a western remake of a Kurosawa film. That’s a fun bit of trivia but it also demonstrates how widespread and universal the plot Magnificent Seven is.
“The Magnificent Seven” isn’t going to surprise anyone or change filmmaking in any way, but it’s a fun western. It drops the ball a bit with its ensemble cast but it’s not deal-breakingly bad, and the great western-styled action sequences more than make up for it.