“The Magnificent Seven” (2016) Review

Ok, what the flying spaghetti monster is up with the negative response to this movie!?  I know Antoine Fuqua has this unfair criticism of “he only directs mindless action movies” and I also know that the mere fact that this movie is a remake makes it easy to expect pure garbage, but my gosh, this is one of the best movies of 2016!

The Magnificent Seven is directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto.  Stars-Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennet, Byung-hun Lee, and Peter Sarsgaard.  Premise-A wild western town is terrorized by an evil rich man and his accomplices.  The townspeople retaliate by hiring 7 various gunmen to fight them.

In regards to the Fuqua criticism, sure he typically makes action thrillers, but they are (almost) very entertaining.  Tears of the Sun, Shooter, Olympus has Fallen (which is much better than White House Down), and The Equalizer are all filled with tense action, and very compelling performances.  The Magnificent Seven is no exception.  Only this time, there is more to love than action.

It was a risk to have a diverse cast play the famous 7, but (unlike in Ghostbusters 2016) the change supports the plot, the cast is thoroughly enjoyable, the intention behind it was not to inspire controversy in a sad attempt to make bank, and the result is actually funny!  The 1960s Magnificent Seven had some of the most popular Hollywood actors of the time (Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn to name a few), this cast is not as popular, but much more fun to watch.  Every character introduction was an explosion of joy for me (I couldn’t wait to see each character)!  Between Seven Samurai (which this was based off of), the 60s Magnificent Seven, and the modern one, Fuqua’s version is the best in terms of character.  I love Seven Samurai, but only Toshirô Mifune and Takashi Shimura stood out as memorable characters (at least to me).  The new Magnificent Seven spends just the right amount of time on each of the seven, and by the end, you will care for every one of them.  Every actor in this movie is having so much fun getting lost in their performances (and in the flawless chemistry between each other), and the audience has an equal amount of fun watching them do so.  Chris Pratt even goes out of his slight typecast personality to deliver a very cool, very unique performance.

But wait, we haven’t gotten to the technical marvels The Magnificent Seven has to show off.  You know how Fuqua’s directing style often includes quick-cutting editing and hand-held camerawork?  The Magnificent Seven is shot by Mauro Fiore (cinematographer of Avatar) and it looks beautiful.  The western setting is fully realized through his use of wide shots.  I would compare some of the cinematography to Wyatt Earp, and that movie was gorgeous!  Of course what is a western film without an epic score to compliment it?  No, Ennio Morricone didn’t compose for this movie; you’ll never guess who it is.  James Horner (along with Simon Franglen)!  This guy is dead and he’s still bringing us amazing music!  Not only that, but he had to compete with Elmer Bernstein’s Oscar-nominated score for the 60s film.  Listening to his music play in the background while watching the incredible action on screen is one of the best things I have seen in the theater this year.

Now that I got that out of my system, let’s talk about the negatives.  This movie does have a very fast pace, and that works pretty well for the most part, but it does lead to a few “coincidences.”  For one, the 7 sign on to this death mission way too easily.  It’s like, [Denzel] “Hey, there’s a town of people being terrorized, wanna help?”  [Insert any of the other 6] “What’s the pay?”  “A saddlebag of coins ‘n’ stuff.”  “[contemplates morality for 30 seconds] Uh, sure.”  Denzel’s character is the only one who feels genuinely compelled to help; everyone else joins with little argument.

Plot wise, since this is the third Magnificent Seven movie (including Seven Samurai), the plot will be pretty familiar.  This is nothing to be upset about, all remakes typically follow the plotline of the original, what matters is how well they do it (and this movie does it pretty well) and it’s not like The Magnificent Seven (1960) had that much drama in the first place.  The other main complaint is the villain.  This I kinda understand, but I don’t have an issue with it.  Peter Sarsgaard plays the classic “evil rich tyrant” trope.  His performance is extremely over-the-top, and his character has no development.  The writers throw around some religious dialogue, but (as a Christian) none of it makes sense (and I don’t think it was supposed to mean anything), and most of it comes from the villain.  The reason I don’t care that much is because this is a trope that has been around since the beginning of time!  It is a cliché that needs to die, but it is a solid setup for a grand finale, and we get that in this movie so all’s well.  By the way, the action sequences are the best I’ve seen in a modern western since Django Unchained.

Why is no one giving The Magnificent Seven the respect it deserves?  I love this movie!  And I spent a good amount of time being skeptical about it.  The actors are enjoyable, the action is top notch, the characters are likeable, and (above all) it’s one of the best remakes I have ever seen, on par with John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).  The Magnificent Seven (2016) gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A.

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