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Review: The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven
09.23.2016
8 10

This review originally ran as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage

PLOT: A gunslinger (Denzel Washington) is recruited by a young widow (Haley Bennett) to save her town from a sadistic tycoon (Peter Sarsgaard). In order to take on his hired guns, they recruit an additional six men, including a hard-living poker player (Chris Pratt), a Civil War vet (Ethan Hawke) and more.

REVIEW: While Hollywood’s as remake crazy as ever, it’s hard to get too up-in-arms about something like THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. After all, it’s a remake of a film that was itself a remake (of Akira Kurosawa’s THE SEVEN SAMURAI). While big-budget westerns are still a rarity on the big-screen, the name value, combined with the ever popular Elmer Bernstein theme (which only gets a brief reprise here) and the potential of casting seven big names in the leads must have made this an attractive prospect.

the magnificent seven cast

The finished film is rock-solid, thanks to the above-average craftsmanship of director Antoine Fuqua (as solid a mainstream director as they come) and the always-towering charisma of star Denzel Washington. While not exactly “THE EQUALIZER in the Old West”, the two movies have the same philosophy, being that the strong must protect the weak. Still, Washington’s character is less monk-like here than McCall was, with him guided by his own hot-blooded desire for revenge rather than selflessness.

The danger of Washington playing the lead is that he’s so dynamic he tends to cast a long shadow. Expertly playing the Yul Brynner-part (sporting similar black clothes – but with hair) Washington does indeed dominate, although Fuqua also finds plenty of bits of business for the other guys to play with. Pratt plays what could be considered the Steve McQueen-style second-fiddle part, although he reminded me more of Horst Buchholz’s young apprentice. Pratt is actually dialed-back somewhat here, with him being more hard-bitten than in previous parts, although he still has that twinkle in his eye fans love. Ethan Hawke probably has the juiciest part as a shell-shocked army sharpshooter, basically playing the part Robert Vaughn did in the original. Byung-hun Lee moseys into James Coburn’s shoes as the quiet, unbeatable killer, while Vincent D’Onofrio mercilessly chews scenery and steals scenes as a mountain man that seems semi-patterned on Charles Bronson’s part in the original.

the magnificent seven denzel washington

Still, while aspects of the old characters have found their way in, no one’s straight-up channeling the originals, and some of them are wholly original, such as Martin Sensmeier as the Comanche Red Harvest, knowingly named after the novel by Dashiell Hammett that was the inspiration for Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO. The seventh man is Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as a Mexican bandit recruited by Washington, who serves as semi comic-relief, but also has a few heavy moments. All seven of them are really good, although probably the best performance outside of Washington’s comes from Haley Bennett. Often used as window-dressing in movies like HARDCORE HENRY, she’s great as a tough widow bent on getting even with Sarsgaard’s diabolical baddie – with the latter going all-out in slime ball mode.

As usual for Fuqua, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is technically impeccable. My only criticism of him in the past is that he tends to shoot his action scenes a little dark, but with most of the action taking place in the daytime here that’s not an issue at all. The shootouts are intense and surprisingly gritty for a PG-13. He doesn’t fall prey to too much CGI carnage – most of the action is kept to shootouts and chases although the vibe is a little more spaghetti western than the more classical John Sturges style of the original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It’s also nice that Fuqua managed to work in some score left behind by the late James Horner, which much of it displaying his distinctive sound.

While THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is unabashedly in the blockbuster mode, as always Fuqua and Washington give it that little push that makes it a cut above-average, and had this been a summer release many would have called it one of the season’s best studio movies. Following its TIFF premiere I’ve no doubt it’ll make a mint this fall. And boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be cool is westerns suddenly became in vogue again?

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: Does anyone else remember the nineties TV show with Michael Biehn?
Source: JoBlo.com

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12:32PM on 10/08/2016

Definitely 8/10

It was great to see a western in classic form, with the proper score and epic vistas. Some of the story was a bit obvious, but this was definitely a feel-good, heroes go down fighting, overcome-evil recipe. It works just as well today as it has in every other such story since the invention of the saga.
It was great to see a western in classic form, with the proper score and epic vistas. Some of the story was a bit obvious, but this was definitely a feel-good, heroes go down fighting, overcome-evil recipe. It works just as well today as it has in every other such story since the invention of the saga.
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10:43PM on 09/26/2016
Perfectly fine, bland western shoot-em-up. I can't really see what the critics are praising it for I find it forgettable with it's cookie cutter characters and standard action. Maybe that's the whole point? The one glaring thing that to me seems to stick out like a sore thumb is the indian Red Harvest. Wow he looks like a modern Mexican dude in cosplay. His bad guy counterpart is more believable I think.
Perfectly fine, bland western shoot-em-up. I can't really see what the critics are praising it for I find it forgettable with it's cookie cutter characters and standard action. Maybe that's the whole point? The one glaring thing that to me seems to stick out like a sore thumb is the indian Red Harvest. Wow he looks like a modern Mexican dude in cosplay. His bad guy counterpart is more believable I think.
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5:32PM on 09/24/2016
Loved this movie. I do agree though, everyone never missed. So why was Ethan Hawke so special if they all were sharpshooters?


Also the scene must have been deleted cause why did Vincent D'Nofrio join them the next morning after saying no?
Loved this movie. I do agree though, everyone never missed. So why was Ethan Hawke so special if they all were sharpshooters?


Also the scene must have been deleted cause why did Vincent D'Nofrio join them the next morning after saying no?
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6:14AM on 09/24/2016
Saw this last night, 5/10. As a western it wasn't great!
Saw this last night, 5/10. As a western it wasn't great!
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+1
8:57PM on 09/23/2016

It was fun

I'd probably give it a 7/10, just because it kind of bugged me that everybody was "too cool for school," and the very frequent gunspinning and swagger was a bit much. Usually one or two characters do that - not all of them.

I quibble, it was fun and I enjoyed it, but those were my minor grievances.
I'd probably give it a 7/10, just because it kind of bugged me that everybody was "too cool for school," and the very frequent gunspinning and swagger was a bit much. Usually one or two characters do that - not all of them.

I quibble, it was fun and I enjoyed it, but those were my minor grievances.
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11:52AM on 09/23/2016
Wow, 8/10 - I'm very surprised by that.
Wow, 8/10 - I'm very surprised by that.
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4:31PM on 09/09/2016

SPOILER

The score from Horner is really beautiful... To think he did it after reading the script, as a surprise birthday present for Fuqua makes it even more emotional for me !

And now for the spoiler part:

I don't know if it will be considered PC or 'ballsy', but the fact that the 3 survivors are the Afro-American, the Mexican and the Native-American is kinda cool !
The score from Horner is really beautiful... To think he did it after reading the script, as a surprise birthday present for Fuqua makes it even more emotional for me !

And now for the spoiler part:

I don't know if it will be considered PC or 'ballsy', but the fact that the 3 survivors are the Afro-American, the Mexican and the Native-American is kinda cool !
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12:36PM on 10/08/2016
Also interesting was that "his kind" was used to refer to the Chinese character, but not once in the WHOLE movie did anyone make reference to Denzel being black. I honestly felt that *improved* the movie. While it wasn't realistic to consider that kind of power held by a black man in the 1880s, I think if they'd tried to make it realistic they would have ruined a perfectly good movie with one of the best leading men of his generation.
Also interesting was that "his kind" was used to refer to the Chinese character, but not once in the WHOLE movie did anyone make reference to Denzel being black. I honestly felt that *improved* the movie. While it wasn't realistic to consider that kind of power held by a black man in the 1880s, I think if they'd tried to make it realistic they would have ruined a perfectly good movie with one of the best leading men of his generation.
12:17PM on 09/09/2016
Already psyched for this movie, but to hear the story of James Horner leaving behind 6 compositions for the film before it even started shooting...touches my heart and makes the feels come :'(

What a career that man had
Already psyched for this movie, but to hear the story of James Horner leaving behind 6 compositions for the film before it even started shooting...touches my heart and makes the feels come :'(

What a career that man had
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9:49PM on 09/08/2016

Sooooooo.....

8/10? So its just as good as Ghostbusters? Sweet, I'm so there.
8/10? So its just as good as Ghostbusters? Sweet, I'm so there.
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8:52PM on 09/23/2016
Wow, that was a couple months ago. Hope you're not still losing sleep over it. I remember how upset you were.
Wow, that was a couple months ago. Hope you're not still losing sleep over it. I remember how upset you were.
6:10PM on 09/08/2016
I'm normally not a fan of remakes unless they are done by a director I respect, and Fuqua is one of them. Just as excited for the score, since I am a huge Horner fan and I'm glad they were able to make use of his music after his passing. Horner didn't do too many westerns (Fievel Goes West is probably the most notable), so curious how this will sound.
I'm normally not a fan of remakes unless they are done by a director I respect, and Fuqua is one of them. Just as excited for the score, since I am a huge Horner fan and I'm glad they were able to make use of his music after his passing. Horner didn't do too many westerns (Fievel Goes West is probably the most notable), so curious how this will sound.
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11:42PM on 09/08/2016
He didn't have much luck with Westerns ("Young Guns" was one of the few times his music was thrown out, and "The Missing" wound up ending his working relationship with Ron Howard because they had problems on it, which is a shame). Looking forward to hearing the whole thing.
He didn't have much luck with Westerns ("Young Guns" was one of the few times his music was thrown out, and "The Missing" wound up ending his working relationship with Ron Howard because they had problems on it, which is a shame). Looking forward to hearing the whole thing.
11:42PM on 09/08/2016
He didn't have much luck with Westerns ("Young Guns" was one of the few times his music was thrown out, and "The Missing" wound up ending his working relationship with Ron Howard because they had problems on it, which is a shame). Looking forward to hearing the whole thing.
He didn't have much luck with Westerns ("Young Guns" was one of the few times his music was thrown out, and "The Missing" wound up ending his working relationship with Ron Howard because they had problems on it, which is a shame). Looking forward to hearing the whole thing.
5:34PM on 09/08/2016
Antoine Fuqua can do no wrong! I'm definetly going to check this out.
Antoine Fuqua can do no wrong! I'm definetly going to check this out.
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+1
4:15PM on 09/08/2016
Glad it's great, although this review seems to underrate the original. I've only ever heard that it's one of the best remakes ever, with a few telling me it even surpasses Seven Samurai.
Glad it's great, although this review seems to underrate the original. I've only ever heard that it's one of the best remakes ever, with a few telling me it even surpasses Seven Samurai.
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4:49PM on 09/08/2016
It certainly does NOT surpass The Seven Samurai, but that's no fault. Kurosawa's just not a director one improves on.
It certainly does NOT surpass The Seven Samurai, but that's no fault. Kurosawa's just not a director one improves on.
3:31PM on 09/08/2016
Washington and Pratt are great in everything they do. Hopefully it does justice to the original unlike most remakes.
Washington and Pratt are great in everything they do. Hopefully it does justice to the original unlike most remakes.
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3:00PM on 09/08/2016
I don't think there was any doubt that this wouldn't be anything but great considering the storyline and talent involved. Glad to read the positive review; this one looks like a hell of a lot of fun.
I don't think there was any doubt that this wouldn't be anything but great considering the storyline and talent involved. Glad to read the positive review; this one looks like a hell of a lot of fun.
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