#REVIEW: “THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The Magnificent Seven rides into theatres this weekend just a few short weeks after its World Premiere in the Opening Night slot of TIFF. The remake of a remake follows seven outlaws in the latter-half of the 1800s aiming to protect a small town from encroaching thieves, led by the villainous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), hell-bent on taking over the town and the local coal mine for themselves.
Much like the original incarnations of this story, the Film primarily follows these mismatched outlaws as they come together and prepare themselves and the townspeople for battle. While the overall picture is as bright and vivid as digital can be in 2016, Director Antoine Fuqua goes to great lengths to make this surprisingly brutal Western feel right at home with its classic brethren. He makes all the precise and minute details pop no matter where they land on screen, and allows the locales to feel genuinely lived in. No matter how great the likes of Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt look in real life, they look down and dirty at all points here – and lend credence to the aesthetic that Fuqua is gunning for (Vincent D’Onofrio seems to play his character a little too close to the rugged aesthetic, threatening to go into full on parody mode).
The Magnificent Seven also excels with its score, which is equal parts entertaining and thrilling. The classic theme song you will immediately recognize has been reimagined here, and sounds even better than before. Alongside some of Fuqua’s more stylish flourishes, the score positively sizzles and really helps amplify the excitement happening on-screen. This is the last Film that Composer James Horner worked on before his accidental death last summer, and his work here exemplifies how tragic his loss really is.
What holds the Film back from greatness is its screenplay, written by True Detective scribe Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk (who last teamed with Fuqua and Washington on The Equalizer in 2014). While it sets things up with a bang and brings the characters together quite well, it stumbles hard in its lengthy Second Act. I understand they need to prepare for the chaos that unfolds in the last act, but these sequences lack edge and any sort of interest. Pratt saves what few moments he can with his trademark humour, but even he seems to be struggling to keep the Film moving. Worse yet, Pizzolatto and Wenk do not give enough compelling reasons for us to care if the group succeeds and offer more mystery than fact regarding some of the group’s ulterior motivations – which would explain why some of these characters’ heroic moments land with more of a thud than a cheer.
Looking past the lack of character depth, the acting is fairly well done across the board. Washington downplays his role throughout the Film, choosing to be the strong, silent type. Pratt chews-up as much scenery as he can, stealing scenes from everyone and continuing to prove why he’s Hollywood’s latest poster boy for fun and adventure. Ethan Hawke is a bit one-note, but still makes his character memorable, while Sarsgaard seems keen on making his villain as bland and uninteresting as possible. I really enjoyed smaller turns from Byung-hun Lee (best known here for his role as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe Films) as one of the outlaws, along with Haley Bennett and Luke Grimes as two of the town’s citizens. Lee gets to have the most fun of the three, but they all make lasting impacts that threaten to usurp the work of the more popular players.
The Magnificent Seven looks and sounds terrific. Fuqua has crafted a genuinely thrilling old-school Western for our generation. The acting is well done, but the script is not all that magnificent. My new found affinity for Westerns made me want to love the movie, but I just merely enjoyed it. If you can look past the overly bulky middle-half, then The Magnificent Seven is an entertaining throwback for a generation that has all but completely forgotten the Western genre.
Sony Pictures Canada release THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN on Friday, September 23, 2016.