I am not usually one for westerns but, wow, this one blew me away. And I’ve since discovered that I am a sucker for well-dressed, testosterone-filled cowboys, especially when they are working for a badass woman trying to save her town and avenge her husband.
The Magnificent Seven, a remake of a remake, is the story of the town of Rose Creek, which has fallen under control of robber-baron Bartholomew Bogue, who will stop at nothing (not even murder) to acquire and maintain control of as much land as he can. When her husband is murdered by Bogue’s men for daring to stand up to him, Emma Cullen leaves the town in search of some way for the people of the town to regain their livelihoods. Enter, Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter with a personal vendetta against Bogue. Chisolm rounds up a band of six other skilled men to initiate a battle over the town.
Again, much to my surprise, I was quite taken with this movie.
First, let’s talk plot. In the beginning, I was a little confused about Bogue’s presence in Rose Creek, but it soon became apparent that he was a monopolizing industrialist who came to snatch up the valley for its prosperous gold mine, which led to him raising the prices of the lots on which the citizens lived and worked. With his henchmen strong-arming and bribing the sheriff, there was nothing anyone could do. The gradual entrance of each member of the group seemed very natural and Denzel Washington delivered such a great mix of suave persuasion and sincerity and humor that really helped shape the camaraderie between the men.
The fire-fights between the Magnificent Seven and Bogue’s henchmen was pretty epic, especially as each character revealed himself. When the final battle against Bogue promises death and destruction, the team attempts to teach the humble farming citizens of the town how to hold their own in a fire fight — as now it is apparent that Bogue will be bringing an army of men down upon them. While there were a few scenes of the men attempting to teach their skills, I never really grasped that they actually had an idea of what they were doing. From that point on, it seemed things could only get worse. And they did. However, the way they planned their defense was awesome, and the resulting battle was epic, to say the least. And yes, some of our men died, but they went out bravely.
As for casting, I thought the directors did a fantastic job of finding actors to fit the various parts. As I said before, Washington was perfect as Chisolm, showing a level head and strong leadership while also delivering his special brand of justice. Chris Pratt was excellent as the gambler, with perfectly timed and perfectly executed comedic relief that, I think, was the biggest reason I enjoyed the film so much.
Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee (Goodnight and Billy, respectively) had such wonderful chemistry, especially when the two joined the gang. The juxtaposition of Hawk’s more outgoing personality with Lee’s quiet stoicism emphasized their friendship and brotherhood later in the film during the final battle. They were some of my favorite characters. Peter Sarsgaard was excellent as Bogue and I was pleasantly suprised by Haley Bennett’s portrayal of Emma Cullen, given the only other thing I had seen her in was Music and Lyrics. She was strong, confident and didn’t take any shit from the men. She was there to fight and avenge, and she did just that without permission from anyone. In the beginning, I was worried she would behave more like the damsel in distress, but she definitely held her own and came through the battle on her own.
I could seriously watch this movie several more times and not get tired of it. Director Antoine Fuqua definitely did the story justice without falling back on the cliches or the traditional kitsch that can often taint westerns. Definitely go see this if you’re looking for a dramatic yet comedic acton-film filled with gunfire and good intentions.
What did you think of The Magnificent Seven? How do you think it compared to the previous interpretations? How can directors avoid the cliched traps of their chosen genre? Let’s talk.