Based on Akira Kurosawa’s legendary Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven is at this point a well-worn franchise with four previous outings. Though arguably only the original of those has retained its fame and appeal. This 2016 re-working stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt and was directed by Antoine Fuqua whose filmography to this point has admittedly been a little simplistic and a little bit hit and miss. However the traditional structure and plot of a Magnificent Seven film is simplistic, good fun and action packed- so it’s not a huge stretch to imagine Fuqua pulling this off. Did he though?
In many ways Fuqua has surpassed himself. From the director that brought us the tremendously disappointing Southpaw –a predictable boxing film with a distinct lack of interesting, likeable characters- The Magnificent Seven is a marked improvement. Equally this new offering also improves on Fuqua’s 2014 collaboration with Denzel Washington, The Equalizer, which fell firmly into the category of ‘straight forward action film’. The Equalizer wasn’t at all objectionable but it was also a million miles from memorable.
The Magnificent Seven is, seemingly unavoidably, a little cheesy and a little predictable. But then so is the source material and the franchise’ past. If you get past that slight predictability, (anyone who goes to see this isn’t expecting a deep, complex, twisting drama- right?) the film is enjoyable through-out. Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke are highlights in performance terms but the simplistic plot and the fact that there are, by default, seven central characters, doesn’t leave too much room for depth in character development.
The central cast is worth noting- Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt are accompanied by Haley Bennet (The Girl on the Train,) Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Jurassic World,) Lee Byung-Hun (‘The Good, The Bad, The Weird’,) and Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead, Black Mass) amongst others.
…there are some genuinely funny moments and they are far from laboured
There are some beautifully shot scenes in The Magnificent Seven and there a brilliant moments, that brilliance isn’t consistent though. At the business end of the film the action is fantastic, edge of your seat stuff and one particularly memorable shoot-out, complete with increasingly tense, occasionally funny five minute build up, is very memorable.
Importantly the films’ action doesn’t feel restricted by its age rating either. It’s a 12 age certificate –likely for the sake of maximising ticket sales but the combat in The Magnificent Seven comes with a real bite and avoids the trap of toothless-ness that some films, seeking a similarly wide appeal, fall into.
In a few places the film tries to be quotable and it feels a little laboured. Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington’s characters reflect on the Civil War, which they fought in on opposite sides, saying “what we lost in the fire we will find in the ashes”. The recurring line jars a little bit because of how overtly it seems to be intended to live on in the audience’s memory after the film. It’s an interesting analogy but it doesn’t feel like an authentic piece of dialogue.
Elsewhere though there are some genuinely funny moments and they are far from laboured. The Magnificent Seven isn’t ‘a comedy western’ at all, but there are a few laughs, some of them tongue in cheek.
One major gripe for returning fans though will be that the original Magnificent Seven Theme is not present in the film until the end credits. As one of the most iconic pieces of music in cinema- it’s a real miss.
Overall The Magnificent Seven is a simple, enjoyable action film and a worthy successor to the original films which, though rightfully iconic, were pretty simplistic themselves. Go to watch this expecting great action, good fun and a laugh or two- you’ll get exactly that and actually a little extra besides.
By George Storr