The Western film is enjoying a slight resurgence thanks to the brilliant efforts of Quentin Tarantino and his widely-successful film of yesteryear, The Hateful Eight. After decades of gathering dust in Hollywood shelves and revival attempts sputtering in fits and starts, the Western once again wants to break out as one of Hollywood’s top genres with the release of this year’s The Magnificent Seven.
The Magnificent Seven is a direct reimagining of the 1960s classic by John Sturges. The plot is all too familiar to the seasoned moviegoer: modern director (Antoine Fuqua of The Equalizer fame) takes an old classic and infuses it with a modern cast and modern elements. In this case, The Magnificent Seven is a great popcorn movie that blends tense action scenes and laudable motley crew of characters. Where the reboot trips up over itself is its attempts to please both the nostalgic and the politically correct.
There’s no doubt that Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven is a movie I’d happily fork over 200 pesos to watch again. The film starts off with the hostile takeover and eviction of the quaint town of Rose Creek by mining capitalist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), a Creek-ian whose husband was murdered by Bogue, seeks the help of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington). Recognizing that he’d be outgunned in a battle with Bogue, Chisolm enlists the help of six other characters to make up The Magnificent Seven: gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt); sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke); the former’s assassin partner Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee); Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); trapper Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio); and, Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). The plot is very similar to the original but its cast adapts the old film to modern standards.
The Magnificent Seven is a mixed bag of diversity. The multitudinous nature of the cast is apparent first and foremost in their races. Their diversity is made manifest in their motivations and methods. No two characters are similar to one another. Despite their differences, they gel with one another smoothly to produce excellently choreographed fight-and-gun scenes. Most notable among the cast were Vincent D’Onofrio’s gibbering as the trapper, Ethan Hawke’s haunted past as the sharpshooter, and Haley Bennett’s never-back-down attitude.
Pacing didn’t seem to be a problem for the ensemble cast. The usual problem with these kinds of films is the lull when the protagonists prepare for the inevitable battle with the antagonists. The Magnificent Seven thankfully spreads out the Seven’s character development throughout the entire movie. So while the village prepares for all-out war, Fuqua inserts light-hearted moments and character exposition. However, since we’re faced with an ensemble cast, some characters lacked the limelight like Vasquez and Red Harvest. Although, just to be fair, these characters can be excused as mysterious ones. What can’t be excused, though, is Bogue’s lack of screen time. He also has a Comanche warrior in his employ, which was never introduced or explained in the entire movie. How did he get a Comanche?
While it’s refreshing to see a minorities-against-white-guy story, the movie’s most baffling problem is how it never tackled the issue of racism headfirst. Set in a time where racism against blacks, Asians, and natives was the norm, its ragtag band seems to live comfortably well in the Wild West. Besides the sporadic jape and one-liner, Fuqua shies away from touching the topic too profusely in favor of telling his grander tale of the little guys going up against the dirty capitalist white guy. Is this Fuqua’s way of going against Trump?
Cliché as it sounds nowadays, The Magnificent Seven doesn’t get caught up in absolute historical accuracy to tell its tale. It stays faithful to its source material (perhaps, a little too much so), which makes it a good watch for everyone especially for the young’uns who haven’t delved into the classic world of Western movies yet.