Editor’s Notes: Magnificent Seven is out on in its respective home video format December 20th.
The new Magnificent Seven (Sony Home Entertainment) isn’t so much a remake as a new spin on a classic tale of outsiders coming to the aid of the defenseless against overwhelming odds. The original movie of the same name, released 56 years ago, was based on the 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai. The new film makes a few changes and introduces some new characters, but the plot basics remains the same.
It is 1879. Robber baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his men have a stranglehold on the mining town of Rose Creek and he is pressuring the simple farmers in the area to sell their land at rock bottom prices. He and his men burst into a meeting at the town church and kill a few innocent folks to make the point. One of those killed is Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer). The townspeople don’t know where to turn: the local law is on Bogue’s payroll. Cullen’s widow, Emma (Haley Bennett), is determined to take action against Bogue.
Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) is a duly appointed officer of the court authorized to bring in murders and thieves for a price. Emma tosses him a saddle bag filled with money — everything the townspeople have — to confront Bogue and his cohorts. Knowing that the job is too much for one man, Chisolm enlists a ragtag group of six to accompany him. They are gunman-gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Confederate Army hero and sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Native American warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), Mexican gunslinger Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), who carries assorted knives and is faster on the draw with them than a man with a gun.
Their back stories are revealed as the film progresses, though some, particularly Red Harvest, are never really developed. The most we learn about the master of bow and arrow is that the elders of his tribe have said he is “on a different path.” We learn nothing about Billy Rocks and Vasquez, and never really understand why they agree to risk their lives with odds stacked against them.
Much of the film is devoted to the seven hired men making preparations for the inevitable showdown with Bogue and his army of men. Serving as tacticians, trainers, and engineers, they explain to the townspeople that they can’t simply hide under their beds; they have to pitch in. I suspected when we saw dynamiting at the mines at the beginning of the film that there’d be lots of explosions during the ultimate confrontation. I was right.
The action sequences are staged excitingly by director Antoine Fuqua. It looks as if every stuntman in Hollywood worked on the picture. A drawback might be that Chisolm does such amazing trick riding and shooting, it’s obviously not Washington in the saddle. The final gun battle is completely improbable, but nonetheless fun to watch and appreciate the logistics that went into staging it.
There was a cool vibe in the original version that Fuqua never captures, though he tries. Dressed entirely in black like his 1960 predecessor, Yul Brunner, Washington plays Chisolm with one basic intense look. Pratt’s Faraday is the best developed character and shares the majority of screen time with Washington. Robicheaux is a complex character, who is having difficulty living up to his legendary wartime status and is most in need of a psychiatrist’s couch.
To maintain the movie’s PG-13 rating, the violence never results in overly graphic images, though there is shooting and killing a-plenty. A new musical score by Simon Franklin and James Horner is serviceable, but right at the end there’s an homage to the first Magnificent Seven in the form of Elmer Bernstein’s theme from the original — perhaps the best movie Western music ever.
Bonus extra on the single-disc Blu-ray widescreen release include six behind-the scenes featurettes and deleted scenes. There are also a single-disc DVD edition and a 2-disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray edition with the same bonus extras.