A man arrives in town on federal warrant, only to be beseeched by a young woman who lost her love and home to a senseless, greedy tyrant. He must round up the best men for the job: an alcoholic flirt, a Civil War legend and his protégé, a fervently religious hunter, a stylish gunsman, and a lone wolf Comanche. They must fight together to save the town of Rose Creek, or no one will--even if it is seven men against an army.
The Magnificent Seven is an excellent retelling of the 1960 classic, with a few upgrades: the dashing Denzel Washington headlines as the team’s leader. Washington couldn’t have been more perfect: a firm, just man who reveals ulterior motives to hunting Bartholomew Bogue, an unpleasant narcissist who has practically captured Rose Creek. Washington’s unbelievably quick with a gun, a single silver pistol that needs no companion. Chris Pratt as Joshua Faraday is plenty charming himself, tossing quips with the rest of the team, adding another kind of solid western spirit disappearing from modern American film. All characters hail from different backgrounds, like Ethan Hawke’s Goodnight Robicheaux and Byung-hun Lee’s Billy Rocks, and the task of bringing them together is the familiar cinematic roundup that takes up the first half the film. You can tell the actors are having fun, pulling epic character introductions and smart exchanges: their chemistry is what makes the film work.
Some will claim the film was ruined by Hollywood’s political agenda, as the remake involves stars plenty less pale than the 1960 original. And it’s true--there’s a black man, an Asian man, a fat man and religious man rolled into one, a Hispanic, a Native American, and a flame-haired female, Hayley Bennett, as the new voice of vengeance. Reading rants on IMDb, I felt my own bubble pop: I’d loved the film and hadn’t noticed anything about it. Talking to my mom, she offered another explanation: that such an ensemble cast might have actually been more realistic, where gunmen and fighters came from every walk of life. And the original 1960’s Seven was actually made as a western interpretation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), a Japanese film.
But take out the politics, it’s just a great western. Everything is scenic, from the dusty baked plains, small storefronts, to the wheat-colored garb of the smallfolk. The town of Rose Creek has its own charm, with a smoked chapel at the helm, whose burning we see at the beginning of the film, and kicks off Bogue’s determination to take the town for its resources. The film excels at turning back the clock to the original old west, only beginning to be soiled by human greed. Half the fun is the horses, trailing through sunrise and dust, and the fantastic guns, and more guns, and gunfights, where lives rest on the draw. It’s got the appeal of a feel-good film, too, as the seven commit themselves to the underdog cause, placing the small town farmers before themselves. That theme is faintly patriotic, as they agree to die among friends and honest people is a good death. In the end, it’s a well-paced, well-done new classic for a generation waiting to rediscover the genre. Magnificent.