The Western is supposed to be a dead genre – at least if you ask the average movie pundit. They’ve been pushed out by the might of the comic book movie and the science fiction. We all know that, it was literally the plot to Toy Story 2. Yet, somehow, pretty much every year Hollywood gifts us with a big-budget Western extravaganza to feast our eyes on, and this is it.
The Magnificent Seven has been remade. The original (which in itself was a remake of The Seven Samurai) was a major hit behind star names like Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. And the same formula has been used here. To limited success.
The story is reasonably formulaic, and it touches on pretty much every story note that people associate with the genre. A ruthless oil baron, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), has taken over a small settlement on the American frontier, and has basically ordered the people to leave and abandon their livelihoods. Anyone who opposed him was executed. When her husband is killed, a young schoolteacher named Emma (Hayley Bennett) sets off to recruit the help of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington). Agreeing to help, Chisolm recruits six other men – from fellow lawmen, to outlaws and even a native – to join his group in taking down Bogue’s stronghold and freeing the town.
The performances were solid throughout the film, with headliners Washington and Chris Pratt delivering the level of performance that we’ve come to expect. Particularly impressive, however, were Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil, Jurassic World, Men In Black) as the tracker Jack Horne, and Byung-hun Lee as the knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks. Both characters have the potential to become classic Western characters. In addition, Sarsgaard was effective as a villainous presence, even though he was evil for evil’s sake.
That said, how was he ever going to be a good guy with that goatee?
The chemistry between the titular seven is the main reason to see this movie, and it’s what elevates this movie to the point where it is a decent watch. The Seven all have a distinct, broad personalities – the bounty hunter, the gunslinger, the sharpshooter, the assassin, the tracker, the outlaw and the native – and they interact in the way that you might expect. Their chemistry comes to a head in the first action scene, where the Seven enter the besieged town and wrestle back control. It’s a perfectly executed scene that gives each character a memorable moment in the spotlight.
But here’s the problem – because every character got a signature spot in that fight, everything that happened afterwards felt like a rehash. Each character was so broad that very few of the moments that followed felt like they added anything to the movie, beyond the obligatory 40 minutes of trying to take down the bad guy. It just became unnecessary. Some might even say repetitive. Most might say repetitive, actually. It was very repetitive. In a repetitive sort of way. Honestly, what I’m trying to say is that the movie was damned repetitive. Repetitive.
Sorry folks, don’t know what happened there.
At the end of the day, there’s not a lot more I can say about this movie. It’s just sort of there. Is it fun, at times? Sure. It even becomes quite funny in some bits. But it probably didn’t need to be made, it will never live up to the original Magnificent Seven. Nor will it live up to any of the classic movies that use the same story formula (Dirty Dozen, Seven Samurai, etc). It will probably hold up quite well compared to Suicide Squad, though. So it’s got that going for it.
3.3/5 – An average Western that needs to be better. Fun waste of 2 hours though!