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The Magnificent Seven
Genre Western
Year: 2016
 
Review:

The Magnificent Seven is a revisionist Western remake of a classic Western, which was based on a Japanese film called The Seven Samurai. The story of heroes vs. cowards, little man vs. big man, defending your fortress and fighting for freedom from tyranny and persecution has remained timeless. The altruism at the heart of The Seven Samurai is part of the reason this film has been immortalised and still holds up today. The heroic seven are an inspiration to audiences, who feel powerless in a system that only seems to make the rich richer and the powerful, invincible.

Perhaps this is what makes the remake of The Magnificent Seven a timely affair, demonstrating the power of a few in their capacity to mobilise and arm the downtrodden in an effort to overcome unreasonable tyranny by force. While this The Magnificent Seven doesn't reinvent the basic story of a few guns-for-hire defending a helpless village, it does redress it, bringing a diverse cast of characters together as a ragtag team of strays who unite to defend the common man. Several Wild West minority groups are represented by The Magnificent Seven and each of them have their reasons, whether motivated by destiny, revenge, money, justice or the wind of change and it's refreshing to see Denzel Washington charging on a stallion as team leader, Sam Chisolm.

Following in the wake of The Hateful Eight, it's probably not as novel having a black actor taking the lead in a classic Western, but Washington does good as a bounty hunter and "peace-maker" partnering with Antoine Fuqua in a film that stands its ground. He's supported by Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onoforio as part of his posse, opposing Peter Sarsgaard as the despicable mining tycoon, Bart Bogue. Pratt isn't quite as charming and cheeky as he was in Guardians of the Galaxy, but adds some extra firepower. Hawke seems to enjoy himself as the tarnished legend, Goodnight while D'Onoforio gets to grips with a part-bear-part-man in Jack.

The film works mostly thanks to its book ends, starting with an intense church scene that recalls There Will Be Blood, and moving onto a high body count showdown to cap things off. The Magnificent Seven would have done well to stay in the channel of There Will Be Blood as they tap into the idea of big business enslaving a town and buying the very soul of justice from the Sheriff and his men. However, this cinematic opening gives way to a more generic rounding up the men middle as Chisolm gathers the usual suspects with one or two surprises.

The third act is all gunpowder and bravado as the town prepare for onslaught and Bogue's men muster on the scene. Having influenced many Westerns over the years and already broken in the concept, much of the film has a dull familiarity tipping the hat to the original while bowing to genre cliches. It was to be expected and you'd be foolish to go in expecting a complete reinvention. What does work is the gunpowder and star power, slowly building to an explosive and violent massacre, and using some big name stars to get us there.

This Western could have done with more camaraderie. While the actors create an easy-going chemistry, it's not in danger of disloding Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Chris Pratt looks like he's enjoying himself in all the mayhem, but sometimes you wonder if his character isn't just psychotic that way. Washington and Hawke do add some class, but it's always good and rarely great. The grit of The Revenant may have spoiled things a bit for this Western, but then again they're more concerned with popcorn thrills than breathtaking cinematography.

It's a wild and entertaining ride that has enough quality to serve as a solid remake, but this film realises its place within the broader context. The diversity and representation makes this underdog tale sizzle below the surface and the stellar cast helps overcome the cracks in what is otherwise a fairly routine film. You may already know the drill, but there's enough twinkle, some epic landscape shots and plenty of shoot 'em up spirit to get the job done.

The bottom line: Enjoyable


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3.00/10 ( 3 Votes )
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