With its September 23 release, The Magnificent Seven is closing off a summer of blockbuster sequels and remakes, so it seems fitting that it's already the third iteration of the popular story of a small group of outlaws banding together to free a town from its evil exploiters, after Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and Sturges's 1960 version. But was it worth doing it all over again?
Its stellar cast — including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio — seemed promising enough to make the movie at least entertaining, but looking at the majority of reviews, The Magnificent Seven is falling short.
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The Magnificent Seven Isn't Awful, But It's Not Brilliant Either
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about The Magnificent Seven is that it's neither infuriatingly bad — which could have at least provided some good laughs — nor excellent, and it's going to end up in the "good enough when I'm craving popcorn" category.
As Empire puts it:
Slick but forgettable, Fuqua's suicide squad is a macho posse movie that could use a jab of fun. It's The Magnificent Seven, but the "magnificent" is silent.
In Roger Ebert's review, it's even a waste to have such a talented cast and yet not make the final product shine:
Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of 'The Magnificent Seven.'
The Performances Are Admirable
If The Magnificent Seven's got one thing going for it, it's the charisma of its main actors, but even among the seven, only Washington and Pratt really shine.
For Variety, Pratt really pulls it off:
If Washington is the film's sly center of gravity, Chris Pratt, as the hard-drinking reckless charmer Josh Faraday, who uses card tricks to distract his enemies into letting him shoot them, has its most combustible star quality. He had it in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' too, and in 'The Magnificent Seven' Pratt pops onscreen.
While the most satisfying thing about the cast is its diversity against the Western backdrop, as the New York Times puts it:
The new movie is as moth-eaten as the serapes strewn through the 1960 film, but there's no denying the appeal of the image of Mr. Washington riding a horse, shooting a Colt and leading a posse of vigilantes to save a mostly white Western town. Mr. Washington is, to state the overobvious, a great star, which means that he has that ineluctable what's-it for selling the goods no matter what their sell-by date.
And even that aspect is barely mentioned in the film.
But For An Action Movie, It's Quite Lengthy
One of the main execution flaws of the new Magnificent Seven is that despite snappy one-liners and a variety of characters, it lacks in tension. Particularly the second half of the movie drags on, and if you're already familiar with the story thanks to the two previous movies, you might find yourself a little bored.
At Variety, the climax scene is pretty much useless:
Bogue shows up with his army and a gleaming black-and-gold Gatling gun, and the film basically says, 'Let the Old West mortal-combat videogames begin!' Pistols, tomahawks, bow and arrows, that bullet-spraying Gatling gun: All are deployed to standard destructive effect. That seven sharpshooters could take on this many bad guys and never raise our pulses by a beat says something about the audience threshold for outrageous violence – but then, we've seen it all 70 times before.
Daily News is even harsher:
There's not much going on. There isn't even that great old music to listen to. There's just dust and duty, cowboys and bromance.
The Magnificent Seven Is Missing A Relevant Subtext
Most importantly, there's nothing that really justifies remaking The Magnificent Seven again. While there was potential to adapt the subtext to our current day issues, the movie lands somewhere between pure entertainment and an attempt at a deeper meaning.
As Variety writes, this old Western trope needs to be freshened up if it wants to resonate with audiences today:
There's this rowdy bunch of sort of outlaw guys, see, and they all band together, and…snore. It worked in 1960 because it was fresh. In 2016, it’s old Stetson.
It's a shame when there was so much potential. In the words of the Guardian:
An African American director casting one of the greatest African American movie stars as a 'classic' western hero, just as President Obama prepares to ride off into the sunset (while mainstream cinema struggles to catch up with the racial diversity of the US) is a recipe for bold imagery.
And yet, the reviews felt like instead of a Magnificent Seven, this team would have been more accurately named as the "Meh" or the "Mildly Diverting" Seven. One can only hope it'll fare better at this weekend's box office, or it's going to collect dust quicker than a cowboy's boot in the desert.
Are you planning on seeing The Magnificent Seven? Have you seen Seven Samurai or the 1960s version?