Review of “The Magnificent Seven”

Matthew and Emma Cullen (Matt Bomer and Haley Bennett) live in the small frontier community of Rose Creek. The nearby gold mine is owned by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and he wants to force out all the residents of Rose Creek and take over the entire valley. During a meeting at the church of many of the town’s residents, Bogue walks in and offers only $20.00 per property to the remaining families. His cadre of armed men forces everyone into the street and set the church on fire. When Matthew stands up to Bogue, Bogue pulls out a gun and kills him. Since the town’s sheriff is on Bogue’s payroll, nothing is done to stop his reign of terror. Emma rides to the next town and witnesses a bounty hunter named Chisolm (Denzel Washington) wipe out a bar full of outlaws and ask him to help her. Initially reluctant Chisolm agrees when he hears Bogue is involved. His first recruit is a hard-drinking poker player named Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt). Then they find an outlaw named Rulfo Vasquez (Manuel Garcia), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Native American Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). The group heads to town and quickly wipes out all of Bogue’s men. The sheriff is left alive and Chisolm sends him to tell Bogue what happened and challenge him to return to town and face Chisolm. The seven convinces the townspeople to join them and prepare for the coming bloodthirsty hired gunmen that Bogue will lead to town.

“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of a 1960 film of the same name that starred Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen and Eli Wallach. It was recently named for preservation by the Library of Congress and the soundtrack contains one of the most recognized, used and copied theme songs in the history of film. While this modern version may not be quite the classic of its predecessor, director Antoine Fuqua and writers Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk have delivered an entertaining and, to some extent, thought provoking film.

The cast is full of people (with a few exceptions) you’ve seen in many, many other films and TV shows. From lead actors Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt to character players like Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and Peter Sarsgaard, the entire group of main actors is spot on and firing on all cylinders. Both Washington and Pratt play characters with silent strength and menace but in different ways. While Washington’s Chisolm is a man viewed as dangerous on first meeting, Pratt’s Faraday is more like comic relief until there’s a threat and then he is a force to be reckoned with.

Vincent D’Onofrio steals the film in every scene he’s in. A bear of a man with a disarming high, squeaky voice, D’Onofrio’s Horne quotes scripture as he’s driving a knife repeatedly into the body of one of Bogue’s henchmen. The contrast is disarming and makes anything Horne does a bit of a surprise. I would have liked to see more of Horne in the movie and Fuqua (or someone else) could maybe make a solo film of Horne’s life prior to him joining the seven.

Peter Sarsgaard’s Bogue is a character that does nothing but evil throughout the film and it almost feels like he’s too much of a villain to have lived as long as the character has. Someone that evil must have made more than a few enemies over the years and someone should have taken him out before now. Still, Bogue is a great villain for this movie. He’s easy to despise and impossible to root for. He appears unstoppable with all the wealth and resources necessary to wipe the town and its people off the map. Bogue, like Chisolm and Faraday, is quietly dangerous. He listens to someone’s complaint then quickly makes the decision to take the life of whoever is complaining. He doesn’t tolerate failure or cowardice in others despite letting surrogates do his dirty work for him. He walks into town surrounded by half a dozen or more ruthless killers and shoots an unarmed man. He has succeeded by intimidation, theft and murder. For him, it is simply the way he does business.

Speaking of business, Bogue gives a speech early in the film that implies the writers and director had a political agenda they were trying to get across. Bogue talks about how capitalism is kind of a religion and the townspeople are violating God’s law by standing in the way of Bogue’s empire. If one applies this bit of thinking to the rest of the film, it might seem like Antoine Fuqua and the screenwriters are looking at the story as an allegory for the struggle of the working class against the power and control of big business. The seven fighters brought in to try and dismantle the greedy corporate interest could be seen as labor unions using whatever means necessary to make the company treat the workers with respect and to share the wealth. This might be me putting too much thought into a minor plot point but the sledgehammer-like subtlety of this monologue seemed to have been purposeful.

“The Magnificent Seven” is rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material. The shootout that ends the film is probably close to 30 minutes long. There are numerous scenes of people being shot, some bloodier than others. There are also scenes with people being killed by arrows. The suggestive material is very mild and brief. Most of the characters are shown smoking at some point. The language is mild and widely scattered.

Despite what felt like a ham-handed attempt at social commentary, “The Magnificent Seven” powers through to deliver a fun and exciting Western adventure. With massive explosions, huge gunfights, bad guys with bad aim, galloping horses and majestic scenery, the film is a kind of throwback to an earlier time when the good guys and bad guys were easy to identify, the ladies in the saloon were always hookers with a heart of gold and the townspeople needed a good kick in the butt to make them see they needed to fight for their futures. It may not be perfect but it was fun.

“The Magnificent Seven” gets five guitars out of five.

This week a couple of movies based on true stories and the return of Tim Burton arrive in a multiplex near you. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Deepwater Horizon—

Masterminds—

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

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