Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016) – review

The story of The Magnificent Seven is nothing new. After Akira Kurosawa made The Seven Samurai there came the 1960 American film of The Magnificent Seven. In the years that followed there were many movies that copied the basic premise of a band of heroes coming together to face overwhelming odds to protect an oppressed group. Movies like: The Three Amigos, Blazing Saddles, and A Bug’s Life are just a few examples that come to mind. With great acting and a quality director The Magnificent Seven was ready for a remake.

A small Western town is under the threat of an evil industrialist, played by Peter Sarsgaard. After he threatens the small farming community a couple of survivors go out in search for some champions to drive off this threat. Seven misfit gunfighters band together to help the farmers. In doing so they teach the farmers how to defend themselves and fight off the opposition.

The acting is great. Ethan Hawk, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and many of the other actors truly encompass the variety of the old West. Haley Bennett, who plays one of the farmers from the small town, is especially sympathetic and impressive to watch. Peter Sarsgaard is a fun villain that captures a lot of the same craziness that made Gary Oldman so entertaining in Leon: The Professional. His motivation makes him seem more like a serious version of Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles. As entertaining as his character is, he is not as pitiable as the Eli Wallach performance in the 1960 film.

The story is unique in its own way and keeps the general theme of the original for the most part. It skips much of the exploration into the concept of altruism; however, it does delve deeper into the idea of vengeance. The photography shows great skill as the audience is treated to amazing sunset shots. The director also built a lot of tension up to the big battle. My only complaints are fairly nitpicky. For example: the characters run the gamut of races and that seemed fairly unrealistic. Having a Native American, a Chinese man, a black man, and a Mexican made things seem a bit too modern since the film takes place in 1879. Given the United States history it is fairly difficult to imagine a group this progressive. The other thing is that the town is said to be full of simple farmers, yet there is not a single farm to be seen in the entire film. Not a big deal, just sort of odd.

The Magnificent Seven is a worthy remake of a classic story. The changes give it charm and the characters are brought to life in such a way that it will entertain any fan of the Western genre. The film is well made and the performances are solid. If you have any desire to see it catch it as a matinee or a rental.  While not a perfect film it captures the themes of the originals and alters exactly what is needed to make it something unique.

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