The 21st-century take on The Magnificent Seven comes at a time where the Western has been subsidized by Hollywood though not quite at the level it once was. Numerous DiCaprio and/or Tarantino vehicles have made stabs at bringing it back to life, each with critical success but to varying degrees of the commercial kind. This remake, then, might be exactly what the genre needs right now: a muscular yet accessible action adventure that might be more palatable to a general audience than the exhausting tension offered by last winter’s double feature of The Hateful Eight and The Revenant.
To those uninitiated with the general story (after all, this is a remake of a remake), this is an entertaining introduction to these tropes by a man who knows his way around an action movie, Antoine Fuqua. The villagers of a small town enlist the help of outsiders to repel the forces of corruption and oppression, and they do so by biting the the bullets of a hundred triggers. Fuqua sheds the extraneous silliness that marred Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer, which yields a leaner action film that nonetheless retains the fun catharsis of his previous shoot ’em ups.
The premise demands an excellent ensemble cast, to which this Seven certainly answers the call. Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, the two leads from Fuqua’s most acclaimed film, Training Day, are reunited on screen and their subdued, world-weary performances are the glue that holds this gang together. Arguably though, the biggest scene-stealers are Chris Pratt and Vincent D’Onofrio (this pair reunited from last year’s Jurassic World). Pratt is comfortable playing variations of a same character between his biggest films, which is the endearingly cocky persona that always suits the environment of the picture – a virtue matched by the big names that he continues to ascend towards, such as Will Smith or Harrison Ford. D’Onofrio contributes an unhinged, oddball performance that one could quite confidently say only he could do.
He’s given roughly the same amount of screentime as the rest of the protagonists, which includes a bandito Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, dagger-happy Byung-hun Lee, bow-happy Martin Sensmeier, and the de-facto town leader played by Haley Bennet. That completes a diverse roster entirely welcome in the climate of 2016. Not only are these performances impressive in and of itself, but there’s a rich chemistry between each of them that makes good use of the time in between the massive-scale battle sequences.
If you are familiar with the 1960 original (famous for starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, among others) or perhaps Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai before that, this version does not reinvent the wheel – nor does it aim to. Fuqua’s M7 is exactly what it should be: a rousing, old-fashioned good time.
‘The Magnificent Seven’ is rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language, and suggestive material. 133 minutes. Now playing in theaters nationwide.