'The Magnificent Seven' Is A Good Popcorn Action Movie - Nothing More, Nothing Less

By James Jay Edwards
Released: September 23, 2016
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Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.

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Film Review
While it may be hard to prove that Hollywood is truly out of original ideas, there hasn't been any recent shortage of remakes and reboots. This summer alone has provided moviegoers with re-imaginings of Ghostbusters and Pete's Dragon, as well as a Blair Witch movie that, let's face it, may as well be considered a remake rather than a sequel. Well, summer's got one more familiar property for audiences: a remake of the seminal 1960 western The Magnificent Seven.

The Magnificent Seven takes place in a typical western movie town called Rose Creek that happens to be under the thumb of a ruthless businessman named Bartholomew Bogue (Experimenter's Peter Sarsgaard). Bogue's plan is to extort the land away from the owners so that he can exploit a nearby gold mine, and while he is making his demands, he kills a handful of the town's residents as a statement of power. One of the slaughtered men's widow, Emma Cullen (Hardcore Henry's Haley Bennett), takes it upon herself to enlist the help of a drifter named Chisolm (Flight's Denzel Washington) to protect the town. Knowing that he is outmanned and outgunned, Chisholm rounds up a motley crew to assist him that includes outlaw gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt from Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy), mean Mexican gunfighter Vasquez (Cake's Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), ex-confederate sniper Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke from Maggie's Plan), Chinese knife-fighter Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee, Storm Shadow from the G.I. Joe movies), Indian hunter Jack Horne (Run All Night's Vincent D'Onofrio), and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Lilin's Brood's Martin Sensmeier). Together, the seven must stand up to Bogue's army in order to save the town from the ruthless magnate's oppression.

Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures' THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment INC., All Rights Reserved.

Director Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, Olympus Has Fallen) approaches The Magnificent Seven with a lot of respect for the original. The screenplay, written by Richard Wenk (The Equalizer) and Nick Pizzolatto ("True Detective"), follows the story of John Sturges' original pretty closely, which was, of course, adapted from the 1954 Japanese movie Seven Samurai (Seven Samurai screenwriters Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni as even given "based on" credits). Fuqua's movie is, thankfully, not a shot-for-shot, beat-for-beat retelling of the Sturges classic, but it is a fairly faithful rendition. Overall, it's a slicker, less-goofy Hollywood affair - although there is plenty of comic relief supplied by Pratt and D'Onofrio, there isn't quite as much mugging for the camera. Basically, The Magnificent Seven is what it is - an action-packed popcorn movie - and it doesn't pretend to be anything else.

The most glaring difference between the two versions of The Magnificent Seven is the sheer diversity of the new movie's cast. Whereas the 1960 film had a single Mexican (and even he was played by German actor Horst Buchholz - the only bit of ethnicity was the character's name being Chico), this version's core cast includes an African American, a (real) Hispanic, a Chinese badass (played by a Korean badass), and a Comanche Indian (portrayed by an actual Alaskan Native American). It's most likely not a planned response to the "Oscars So White" controversy of last season, but it is a notable bit of authenticity in an otherwise unbelievable movie.

(l to r) Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-hun Lee star in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures' THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment INC., All Rights Reserved.

Credit should be given to any director who attempts to remake another's movie, especially when that movie is something as iconic and beloved as The Magnificent Seven. Does Fuqua succeed? Well, his The Magnificent Seven doesn't stick the landing quite as well as the original, but it does what it does very well. Get your popcorn ready.
The music in The Magnificent Seven is a story in and of itself. After working together on Southpaw, Antoine Fuqua and composer James Horner (who has scored everything from Avatar and Titanic to Humanoids from the Deep and Something Wicked This Way Comes) became close friends, and Horner championed Fuqua's making of The Magnificent Seven. Unfortunately, Horner was killed in a plane crash before shooting was completed, but the prolific musician left Fuqua a gift; he had written a batch of themes for the film which were presented to Fuqua by Horner's arranger/programmer, Simon Franglen (Skyfall, Spectre). Of course, Horner's themes needed a bit of tweaking in order for them to fit the finished film, but Franglen was more than happy to step in and finish what his legendary mentor had started.

(l to r) Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures' THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment INC., All Rights Reserved.

The score for the original The Magnificent Seven, written by Elmer Bernstein (Robot Monster, See No Evil), contains some of the most recognizable and iconic music ever contained in a motion picture. Horner's compositions for the new film are extremely respectful of Bernstein's pieces, but still have a flair of their own. The new soundtrack is very derivative of the original, but creatively so; it keeps a lot of the same orchestrations and follows many of the same rhythmic patterns, so it's clear that, above all, it is a The Magnificent Seven movie. It sounds like a continuation of the original's score, and that's a good thing.
Action Sequences
While The Magnificent Seven is not wall-to-wall action, it's pretty close. It comes up for air enough to deliver bits and pieces of exposition before the fighting starts again. There's a little more downtime during the first two acts of the movie - the recruitment and the training sections - but once Bogue's inevitable siege comes and the Seven are forced to defend the town, it's full-contact game on. There's plenty of good fighting, and it's not just pistols and rifles; there are knives, arrows, tomahawks, and even a few surprise weapons. There is also a lot of smoke and sand that gets kicked up, so the action does tend to get a little obscured whenever it really gets rolling. And, because the film does not subscribe to the typical "good guys wear white" trope of the cinematic western, it gets hard to tell the Seven from Bogue's thugs in some of the wide and long shots in which all hell is breaking loose. But, as long as you can keep the cowboys straight, there's plenty of horse-riding, trigger-pulling, arrow-flying action waiting for you in The Magnificent Seven.

Denzel Washington stars in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Columbia Pictures' THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment INC., All Rights Reserved.

Action, Western
Release Date
September 23, 2016
MPAA Rating
Production Designer
Casting Director
Music Score