Friday, September 23, 2016 6:45 am ·  0 Comments
The genre of Western film is one of the hardest movies to make, often because most of them turn out cheesy, unoriginal, or worst of all, boring. I’m happy to say that director Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day, Southpaw) The Magnificent Seven gets things mostly right, or at the least, doesn’t get it wrong.
The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the 1960 John Sturges’ classic, which, in turn, is a remake of the 1954 Japanese action film, Seven Samurai. The story revolves around a post-civil war town in Texas under threat of industrial takeover. The residents hire seven famous outlaws and gunslingers to lead a defence of the town.
Fuqua’s Seven is made with the precision and glamour of a modern blockbuster, but it has a traditional feel. The movie’s best quality is how it celebrates and tips its hat to both films that inspired it and the Westerns of time gone by.
Wide panoramic shots of the American frontier? Check. Thrilling action scenes in the small western town? Check again. Gorgeous sets and elaborate costumes? Check. And topping it off, an exciting, rich musical score that steamrolls through the two hours.
There’s no denying the emphatic elements needed are here, and made well. Mauro Fiore’s cinematography and the late James Horner’s score are particular delights. So what keeps the movie from soaring?
The large celebrity cast has lots of fun, and their enthusiasm oozes off the screen. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Haley Bennett are all terrific as their respective heroes and cowpokes, with excellent comedic timing and honest panache.
But with so many heroes (without spoiling, there’s a lot more than seven) and so many villains (enough to the match the good guys), it’s hard to invest emotionally in all of them. The actors infuse their characters with interesting personalities, but there isn’t enough time to get more than face value from anybody.
That’s the greatest weakness in Nic Pizzolatto’s epic script – it’s not that’s there’s too much, but there isn’t enough to make any person, setting, or moment particularly special. So while everything’s good, it means nothing is notably dazzling, or really memorable.
With this is in mind, don’t think that means any of the production value, performances, or sparkle of the film is bad. This Seven is well made, and it isn’t even necessarily shallow. It simply doesn’t excel because it runs out of steam.
The action is great, and there’s passion to spare. Be forewarned, however, the 14A rating is both accurate in scope but serious. There’s a few moments where the violence runs tough, and Fuqua clearly isn’t shying away from the grit or toughness of the American West.
If you do decide it’s worth seeing, the grand scale and epic size of Seven rewards audiences at the multiplex; somehow an iPad screen won’t do the the beauty of this film justice. (This may be a case where Winston’s IMAX screen would be worth the higher ticket price.)
So this Western for 2016 may not be groundbreaking, but it screams with the pride and fun of older western flicks. That may not be magnificent, but it does make this worth seeing.
The Magnificent Seven
2 1/2 out of 4 Stars
14A, 132 minutes, Action Western.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Vincent D’Onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard.
Opens Friday September 23rd at Winston Cineplex, Oakville Cineplex & VIP, and Film.Ca. In IMAX at Winston.