In 1954, legendary Japenese film director Akira Kurosawa brought to the silver screen an iconic movie that influence countless people, Seven Samurai (1954). Six years later American filmmaker John Sturges gave us the Western version of it with The Magnificent Seven (1960). Now, 56 years later, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) brings us his take with this remake of it.
As a massive fan of the original 1960 film, I have to say that I was fully anticipating this remake coming. Not because I’m one of those guys who complains that “Hollywood is running out of ideas,” but because it wouldn’t be the first time.
Seriously, ignoring that the 1960 film was a remake itself, there have been others like it that could be counted as remakes. There was the sci-fi version Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and a sword-and-sandal version with The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1983). The comedy Three Amigos (1986) parodies aspects of the plot, and one of the most recent versions was Pixar’s A Bug’s Life (1999). So, it was only a matter of time before we got an actual remake of this movie, and I’m okay with it.
This time around, we don’t follow a mysterious gunman/bounty hunter named Chris, but Sam Chisolm, played by the ever-talented Denzel Washington, as he’s recruited to help a small town terrorized by industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). To help him, Sam brings with him a gambler with an explosive personality, Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt); the demon-haunted sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheux (Ethan Hawke); knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee); the bombastic tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio); notorious outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); and the Comanche warrior named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmier).
I went into the new Magnificent Seven without any high expectations, despite it being a remake of one of my favorite movies. When I came out, I was satisfied. What I wanted was a movie where we follow seven interesting and trouble heroes as they battle a big-time baddie. That’s what I got.
With our seven protagonists, I do notice little nods to the 1960 film but there’s never a moment where I said to myself, “Oh, that’s just their version of that one character.” The closest I came to a comparison was Hawke’s and Lee’s characters. Hawke’s troubled past that keeps him from pulling the trigger is very similar to Robert Vaughn’s character in the ’60 film.
The Robicheux character is very much a cocky, dapper con-man who has a more defined history with the leader Chisolm. Lee is similar to Britt (James Coburn) because both are quiet knife-throwers — and that’s about it.
Washington has a great commanding presence in the film as the leader who has his own score to settle with the villain. Hawke and Lee have great chemistry together. Garcia-Rulfo’s Vasquez and Pratt’s Farraday have some great banter.
D’Onofrio’s character I really love; it could just be because I like the tough-but-friendly giant characters. Newcomer Sensmier leaves a great impression for his first major film. I also really appreciate that Fuqua decided to have a rather diverse cast with the seven.
Part of me wishes Haley Bennett was cast as one of the seven, especially since filmmakers kept promoting her in the adverts as a major character. But that’s a minor complaint, and who knows? The other films sparked sequels, so maybe Bennett — or another actress — will become a future member of the seven.
One advantage I’ll give this film over its previous incarnation is that the action is fast-paced and exciting. Explosions, knife-and-hatchet throwing, bow-and-arrow shooting, and of course plenty of quick draw action.
Of course, this film isn’t perfect, especially when it comes to pacing. The seven just seem to join up together for no real reason. When they come across Jack Horne, we only get a glance at his backstory without a real reason why he became part of the posse.
Despite those flaws, I still found myself enjoying this film. I hope that its Hollywood-blockbuster, all-star-cast appeal, combined with being #1 at the box office (at the time of this article’s publication), brings a new wave of popularity towards Westerns. It may not be as good as the original, but it’s still a fun ride.