The Magnificent Seven boasts a commanding cast consisting of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio among others. Even bigger is its namesake as a remake of the 1960s classic Western, which in turn is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s even more brilliant and influential Seven Samurai. It has a lot to live up to, which is why it’s unfortunate that the film is merely good rather than anywhere close to magnificent.
The small farming town of Rose Creek has been taken over by ruthless businessman Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his corrupt officials. Not able to defend themselves from Bogue’s wrath, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) enlists the help of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) and a ragtag group of outlaws to take back the town. It’ll be an uphill battle, however, as it’s only seven men against an entire army.
Joining Chisolm in his suicidal shootout is gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), renowned sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his knives expert buddy Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and the bear of a tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio). Chisolm, Farraday and to an extent Goodnight are at the forefront of the team, but even with them the film doesn’t do all that well a job at establishing these characters aside from a few stereotypical traits for each of them. Chisolm is the charismatic leader. Farraday is the comic-relief trickster. Horne is just straight up insane. You get the idea. Personally, I found the bigger problem to be that you never really understand why they’re undertaking this so-called impossible mission until the very end. The money’s not that good so for most of the time you believe that everyone has some kind of death wish or just doesn’t have anything else to do.
There are moments in the film where the comradery between the Seven shines through, but it’s mostly reserved for smaller scenes between a few characters rather than the team as a whole. That makes their dynamic feel off at times. For instance, I never really understood why Red Harvest joined everyone in the first place, other than the fact that his tribe said he had a different path ahead of him. We do witness Chisolm’s motivations towards the end of the film, but by that time I no longer cared why he was doing so.
The majority of The Magnificent Seven is the assembly of this team and the training of the town to fend off the inevitable attack from Bogue and his gang. Thankfully, the payoff is worth it as the battle at the end is the best part of the film as it dives into non-stop action where you actually believe the heroes to be the underdogs. At one point Bogue’s men pull out a Gatling gun and pretty much obliterate everything in their path. Just as you start to believe these larger-than-life characters to be invincible, the film reminds you in devastating fashion that they’re not.
The Magnificent Seven pays homage to the original and other Westerns, but it does little to set itself apart. Vincent D’Onofrio gives a memorable performance, but the rest of the cast just fades into the background. It’s your standard action film. When it comes to The Magnificent Seven however, standard isn’t good enough.