3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Antoine Fuqua’s remake of John Sturges’s The Magnificent Seven (1957) is an entertaining, lively western that trades in the original all-star line-up of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and James Coburn for Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke. The original The Magnificent Seven is a remake itself, of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), and if this latest incarnation doesn’t quite have the same sense of purpose and fun that those two movies have, it still makes up for it in star power and rousing shootouts.
Washington stars as Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter hired by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) to help save her small town from a takeover by mining baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Chisolm, who has his own past history with Bogue, enlists the help of six other men – among them Pratt, Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio, who never fails to make interesting acting choices.
The Magnificent Seven should be a reminder to audiences of how energetic a western can be, particularly when we see so few of them nowadays (although one of the year’s best films, Hell or High Water, is a kind of modern western). With this cast, the movie could benefit from a few more low-key, hangout scenes with the actors, as a lot of the fun comes from watching Washington, Pratt, Hawke and the others interact with each other. And with an actor as good as Sarsgaard as the villain, I wish Fuqua had given him more to do.
But The Magnificent Seven is, for the most part, a welcome big-screen adventure, full of large vistas and real movie stars – although why the film doesn’t make more use out of the original’s beautiful score is beyond me.
It’s worth noting for younger audiences that The Magnificent Seven pushes the PG-13 rating to its limits. Although appropriate for viewers thirteen and older, it’s still a fairly violent film, and shines a light on the MPAA’s tendency to go easier on big-budget films than independent films with far less objectionable content for younger viewers.
Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.