Because it is still 2016, the movie factories in Hollywood are still hard at work churning out unwanted remake after unwanted remake – the latest film to appear in our cinemas is an all-star remake of iconic western The Magnificent Seven. But, of course, it’s more modern – it’s darker, bloodier and not nearly as fun as the original movie. It updates the racial mix and adds a few new innovations, but it is essentially a lesser version of the same movie.
Greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Skarsgaard) seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek, looking to mine for gold, and oppresses the residents. Their lives in jeopardy, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) search for someone to help them, eventually coming across bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington). Chisolm recruits a group of six other gunslingers to help battle Bogue and his ruthless henchmen – initially lured by the prospect of money, the seven mercenaries soon find themselves fighting for something far more honourable.
Firstly, a brief word on the score – this was James Horner’s last movie, the project he was working on at the time of his untimely death by plane crash, and it was finished by his friend Simon Franglen. It is a strong note to go out on, if one that hits every western cliché in the book, and it fails to linger long in the memory. Horner maybe had original composer Elmer Bernstein’s score in mind, as there are certain aspects of his score that feel like echoes of the original – however, that score was the true highlight of the 1960 film in a way this one simply isn’t.
Washington does a serviceable job as the bounty hunter, and Chris Pratt even manages to sneak in the few laughs the movie musters. The most interesting performance is that of Ethan Hawke, whose Goodnight Robicheaux is haunted by his actions in the Civil War – his scenes are generally the most interesting, but also the least frequent. As for the others, they are faintly-sketched characters who are differentiable solely by their ethnicity or, in the case of Vincent D’Onofrio, a bizarre high-pitched voice. The problem is that you don’t really care about any of them – in the original, there was some degree of emotion when not all of the seven made it to the end. Here, none at all.
As well as the racial mix, there are a few other minor deviations from the original picture. The final battle sees the appearance of a Gatling gun – perhaps it would be tempting to see it as the threat of the progress, if the movie were anywhere near smart enough to have come up with that. Rather, it’s an excuse for more bloodshed – the film is far bloodier than the original and, whereas the 1960 film featured characters doing the right thing, this version is instead a revenge tale against an antagonist so boring he sucks the life out of the screen.
The film having ‘magnificent’ in its title sets a bar that it never lives up to – since 1960, we’ve seen this film a lot in different trappings, and this film brings nothing new. It has the requisite star power, the violence, the action, but it is relentlessly grim in a way a film like this shouldn’t be. It is perhaps fitting that the only really awesome moment occurs as the credits start to roll, and Elmer Bernstein’s score begins to play – that is where you’ll find the magnificence here.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington (Chisolm), Chris Pratt (Josh Faraday), Ethan Hawke (Goodnight Robicheaux), Vincent D’Onofrio (Jack Horne), Byung-hun Lee (Billy Rocks), Haley Bennett (Emma Cullen)
Running Time: 133 Mins