The Magnificent Seven is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to hit the screens this week. It is a remake of a 1960 film by the same name, starring Yul Brunner and Steve McQueen, which itself was a remake of legendary Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic Seven Samurai. Both the films have been an inspirations to several Bollywood films like the great Sholay, Feroz Khan’s Khotey Sikkey and more importantly, China Gate. 2016’s The Magnificent Seven is directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, and stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Vincent D’onofrio and Peter Sarsgaard in the lead. Here’s our review of the film…
What’s it about
Set in the late 19th century, the town of Rose Creek is terrorised by a ruthless businessman Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), the widow of a man Bogue killed, hires a bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to take Bogue down. He in turn hires six other men – a charismatic gambler Faraday (Chris Pratt), a PTSD suffering sharpshooter Goodnight (Ethan Hawke), his assassin friend Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a bear-sized tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’onofrio), a ‘Texican’ outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and a Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Once assembled, The Magnificent Seven ride off to Rose Creek to save the town from evil guys.
We all love movies where good men take on the bad to protect the downtrodden. Bollywood specialises in such kind of themes every year. So the plot of The Magnificent Seven is appealing to many. The biggest attraction of the film is the starcast the makers have roped in, good looking people who add to the visual appeal of the movie. While everyone gets their moment to shine, it’s Chris Pratt who walks away with the claps and the best lines. The man is on a roll ever since Guardians of the Galaxy hit the screens couple of years ago. Ethan Hawke is also brilliant as the man suffering from PTSD, though his change of heart in the end is so predictable and Bollywood-ish. Haley Bennett, whose character reminded me of Mamta Kulkarni in China Gate (minus the romantic subplot), is also a confident performer. She is the emotional anchor of the film, and she holds well against the Magnificent Seven, considering that this was a new character written for the remake. The action sequences are choreographed with finesse, especially the long climax that had a surprising casualty I didn’t see coming. Technically, the frames created by Mauro Fiore is gorgeous to look at, while the BG score, partly composed by late Academy award winner James Horner, is apt.
Now the original The Magnificent Seven was a decent entertainer, but it was no patch on the original film, Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. The 1960 film lacked the depth and emotional turmoil the Japanese film had. The 2016 remake, while an improvement on technical grounds, has the same flaws as the movie it remade. The character development is ignored and the scenes that should have shown us the bonding of the Seven feels underwritten and dragging. Except for Chisolm, Faraday and to some extent, Goodnight, the rest of the characters are vastly underdeveloped, a fault with the original as well. So we don’t feel much when a couple of heroes go down in the bloody climax (though one death, like I said before, was out of the blue for me). The villain, despite a terrifying performance by Peter Sarsgaard, is just one note. Blame that on the lack of scenes given to the actor. Denzel Washington, who is the leader of the pack, plays it too straight faced. This isn’t the kind of performance we expected from him, especially as he had won his second Oscar for Training Day, that was directed by Antoine Fuqua only. Moreover, they could have had some more fun with his character, on the lines of Django Unchained, since the film was set post Civil War-era, and the coloured men were still looked upon with contempt. We have seen such themes of unlikely heroes assembling together to take on a megalomaniac in recent films in a much better way, the biggest example being that little superhero film called The Avengers. So yeah, Antoine Fuqua should have upped his game here.
What to do
If I had to chose favourites, I would actually go for Rajkumar Santoshi’s underrated China Gate, over both The Magnificent Seven films. Purely because the former scores over the latter with a far more terrifying villain and better written team bonding scenes. Watch The Magnificent Seven if you are a Chris Pratt fan or a sucker for the genre.
Reviewed by Sreeju Sudhakaran
**** Very good