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Legendary director Akira Kurosawa unveiled the epic team-up movie formula in 1954 with Seven Samurai. Then acclaimed director John Sturges remade that exact formula for a different audience in 1960 with The Magnificent Seven. Both films are regarded highly by anyone that’s seen them, but I am not one of those that’s seen them.
I know, I know: this is a glaring oversight in my movie watching practices. However, I wanted to provide a perspective without a frame of reference for the newest take on this team-up formula: director Antoine Fuqua‘s The Magnificent Seven, starring frequent Fuqua collaborator Denzel Washington.
If you know the premise of any team-up action/western flick, you know how the latest The Magnificent Seven starts. A vaguely bad businessman named Bartholomew Bogue, played here by Peter Sarsgaard (because of course it is), enters a town uninvited with a rather large army. He tells the town to give their gold and earnings to him, lights their church on fire, kills a couple people, and leaves.
One of those people killed was the husband of Emma Cullen, portrayed by Haley Bennett, who’s inspired to seek outside help to rid the town of Bogue and his henchman. Enter Denzel’s character Sam Chisolm, who accepts Emma’s proposition because reasons. He further enlists the aid of 6 others including gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), and knife aficionado Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) among others.
It might be indicative of my language used above that I didn’t feel the movie adequately explained the Seven’s motivation in aiding Emma in her cause. Each time the movie starts to tease a deeper character moment, it cowers away into another spectacle of an action sequence (which are still entertaining).
Denzel’s Chisolm and Pratt’s Farraday feel like the most defined characters of the Seven, but you still yearn for more as the end credits roll. The writers Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk give Hawke’s Robicheaux an awkwardly brief arc, and attempt depth to Chisolm’s back story in the closing moments, but by that point, it’s too late. The waters are too shallow.
Further unintentionally ambiguous motivations belong to Sarsgaard’s Bogue. He possesses the same level of clarity to his madness as a stereotypical superhero movie villain, which is to say not much clarity is present. His existence is purely defined as a foil for our heroes.
Complaints aside, Denzel and Pratt demonstrate a sufficient amount of chemistry, and Pratt keeps the humor alive throughout the film. The action might be over the top for a western, but for a popcorn blockbuster type of movie, a majority of audiences won’t utter a single complaint.
The Magnificent Seven is to westerns what The Fast & the Furious is to racing films. That is to say, they’re both high-octane action movies first at the sacrifice of a memorable story and clearer character motivations. However, this Seven boasts the type of flash and cast that crowds understandably will flock to. If you’re looking for a meaningful and less forgettable time, I hear the originals are exquisite.
Need a really, really brief yet comical synopsis of this review? Check out my 10 Second Review of The Magnificent Seven below!