The Magnificent Seven is a blast, the type of old-school fun that Hollywood has forgotten how to make. In an era of endless remakes and reboots, we find a film that could use a modern retelling, and while its story may be conventional, the film relishes in its epic shootouts and brilliant cast. Not only is the film more action-packed and witty, but director Antoine Fuqua puts a modern spin on the core themes, teaming a misfit band that couldn’t be more different against an irrational madman fueled by greed.
Bartholomew Bouge (Peter Sarsguard) is the most ruthless villain in the west, a shrewd businessman who takes up the gun in order to capture a small town. Defenseless against these wicked criminals, a local townswoman (Haley Bennet) recruits Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a lawman with a vendetta against Bogue, to protect the city. Tasked with an impossible mission, Chisolm forms a team of seven gunslingers to defeat Bogue, prompting an epic showdown.
Director Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington continue in one of the best modern director-actor collaborations, once again committing to their genre. It’s all out old school western, with fast, witty dialogue and some of the year’s best coordinated action sequences. Washington is excellent of course; he approaches the role of a grizzled westerner with ease and charisma, providing yet another example as to why he’s one of the best actors alive.
But it’s the ensemble that really makes the film click. While it’s hard to create backstories and motivations for a team of seven characters, each actor gets a moment to shine and adds enough personality to be memorable. While the standout is by far Ethan Hawke, in an Academy Award worthy performance as a disgruntled former veteran, newcomers like Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeir add new voices to create a more unique ensemble.
The diversity is what makes it click; you have many cliched roles, including the wisecracking Chris Pratt, stoic badass Byung-hun Lee, and madman Vincent D’Onofrio, but the actors elevate the material to create a truly varied team, with a believable bond. The ethnic multiculturalism is also commendable; the film includes one of the most diverse casts in any modern action movie, but instead of throwing that fact around just to please cynics, it embraces how each character fits within the story, and makes for a more compelling team when they’re all different.
Opposing the team is a wonderfully hammy Peter Sarsguard, a Trump-inspired villain who gloats in the wickedness of capitalism. Despite a powerful opening scene and some not so subtle political metaphors, Sarsguard is underutilized, getting lost in the spectacle of the adventure. But getting lost might be okay in this case; at nearly 132 minutes, the film flies by, with each new scene adding a memorable exchange or effective moment involving the cast.
The film features enough gunplay and one-liners to entertain, but it really shines in its epic final confrontation, which shows off Fuqua’s abilities as a showman. Everything solid throughout the film, the actors, the action choreography, and the terrific score, dials it up a notch in an explosive finale that justifies the build up. With a tight script highlighting a few key emotional moments, Fuqua has enough surprises up his sleeve to make a thoroughly compelling finale.
Is The Magnificent Seven anything bold or original? No. It’s fun, and very well done at that. Instead of burrowing itself in nostalgia, the film embraces its modern sensibilities, but still has enough old school elements to draw in its legacy. One of the best action movies of the year, The Magnificent Seven is a complete blast. Grade: B+