I’ve never liked Westerns, those hyper-masculine products of a time gone by. I’m rarely a fan of remakes, too, since they’re usually just made for cash.
Seeing as The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a Western remake of a Japanese classic, I didn’t go in with the highest of hopes. And I think, in the end, that made me like it.
Co-written by True Detective‘s Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, the new Seven stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt (Jurassic World), and Peter Sarsgaard (An Education). The story is the same as the original(s): a tyrannical man threatens to claim a settlement, and a band of men is gathered to fight the man’s forces.
Honestly, it takes a while to get interesting, and I thought the film had lost me by that point. The film opens fairly well, establishing the brutality and inexplicable psychopathy of Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard), and then the rest of the first half is spent assembling the men to fight him. The only truly engrossing part was the battle at the end, and even that was riddled with hackneyed, heroic fates.
This might be the most Western movie ever made, in that regard. So many aspects of the film are typical of the few Westerns I’ve seen, both the positives and the negatives. And yet, some elements of this film truly set it apart from what I’ve seen, and those are noteworthy. The score was partially composed by the late, great James Horner (Titanic), and I could not help but bathe in it as it kept the standard moments afloat. Also, there is one significant female role in this film, and it’s honestly the best of all of them. Newcomer Haley Bennett (next month’s The Girl on the Train) won me over almost instantly, adding so much truth and dimension to a male-centered film, and I think she’s really going to be one to watch in the future. The cinematography is truly outstanding, as well.
In Blazing Saddles, a black man rides into a white town on a horse. In that same film, the villains believe the settlement’s exterior is real, when in fact they’re just the building faces on supports. For most of The Magnificent Seven, I felt like I was watching those buildings—it looked authentic, but there was nothing deeper to it. It was a hollow film. Thankfully, by the end, the only real comparison was a black man on a horse.
The Magnificent Seven is in theaters now.
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