I have not been vague or unclear in my opinions of remaking films, let alone highly regarded and classic films. There is a very fine line that one walks when filming a remake. You leave the audience satisfied, or you risk making a complete joke of the entire final product.
Remakes and reboots have become all too familiar in recent years and, in my opinion, have too often left a bitter aftertaste. I do not get particularly excited when I see the retelling of a movie is in production and I usually have adamant opinions before ever even seeing the film. This year has been no different. Two Hollywood classics received the makeover treatment and views were flying about both before they were even released. The first was the Cecil B. DeMille epic, Ben-Hur which I have not seen and have no immediate plans to see for reasons of which I could never stop listing. The second remake is a remake of a remake, The Magnificent Seven.
62 years ago Akira Kurosawa released his masterpiece, Seven Samurai, the story of an eclectic bunch of samurai in 1586 who are hired to help save a village which is under attack. Seven Samurai is considered the blueprint for all action movies that have followed since. It changed the way classic hero/villain stories are told, filmed and presented. You have to figure that making an Americanized version would prove to be a relatively tall order. Six years after Seven Samurai was the release of the now western classic, The Magnificent Seven starring some of the biggest stars in movies with names like Yul Brenner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen.
Fast forward 56 years later, and Antoine Fuqua takes on the daunting task of remaking a classic western which is a retelling of a masterpiece film. If Fuqua was looking to challenge himself, he chose the right project. He called upon two stars that he had worked with in the past with success. Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke team up again for the second time. They previously starred in Fuqua’s Training Day in which they both were nominated for an Academy Award and Washington won.
The town of Rose Creek is under the thumb of a wealthy and sinister industrialist, Bartholomew Bogue, with a small army of enforcers on his payroll. The residents of the town unable to make a living and have lost control of their city. Bogue flexes his muscle to try and force the town to sell their land. When they hold a meeting inside the town church to seek to see what can be done to stop him, Bogue then burns the church and kills the man who stands up to him, Matthew Cullen. Cullen’s widow heads out of town to look for help to force Bogue out. She stumbles across a skilled gunman named Sam Chisolm whom she witnesses take out a series of men, single-handedly. When she makes her case to Chisolm, he quickly turns her down. The widow Cullen continues to plead, and once Chisolm hears the name of Bogue, he then agrees to help her out. Chisolm travels the territory to put together the right team of outlaws, gunfighters, bounty hunters and other rag tags, that are just crazy enough to pull off such a challenge.
The crew arrive in town and begin helping the citizens to prepare for the fight of their life. Knowing casualties will occur, they are ready for the fight, knowing that the result will be worth the sacrifice. Before long, Bogue and his men arrive back in town prepared to push the residents of Rose Creek out and take their land. Soon a bloody battle of survival ensues that Bogue and his men thought they were ready for but soon realize that it will not be as easy as they anticipated.
The best way to look at this version of The Magnificent Seven is not to take it too seriously and just enjoy it on its own. It is a well-made action western with all the elements that make it enjoyable. There is plenty of humor provided by Chris Pratt and a strong lead that Denzel Washington is well known. Ethan Hawke as the mysterious and troubled gunslinger provides depth to the characters.
If you cannot help but hold it up against the original Magnificent Seven or even worse hold it up against Seven Samurai, then you will no doubt be left severely disappointed. I choose to look at the fact that it took a good base of a story and told it in its way and a greater sense. It was able to do visually that the others just didn’t have the ability to. The gun shots are louder; the explosions are bigger, and the landscape is wider than in the previous films. All this said it does not compare to the first two films in its lineage and it would be unfair to do so. Just enjoy it as a fun blockbuster with all the right pieces.