Pretty Good Remake to a Pretty Good Classic
The original 1960 film, The Magnificent Seven, is in a weird place in American pop culture. While it's usually considered one of the major classic Hollywood westerns, it's never been considered to be particularly great.
Don't get me wrong, it's a good movie, but it's more or less remembered for being that brightly colored, energetic western, that played basically as an excuse for an extended gunfight, an excuse for Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen to work their charm, and that remake to the MUCH better movie, Seven Samurai.
I've yet to find anyone who holds in the same qualitative regard as say, The Searchers, Shane or Red River. That being said, it's really the only movie where a possible remake wouldn't be an ill-abvised mess from the beginning. Antonie Fuqua, director of some great action movies in his career, isn’t breaking any new ground or necessarily trying revitalize the western here. What he does is what he does best; make an action packed film, and for what it’s worth, the new Magnificent Seven is about as good as the original.
The story is more or less the same as the original one (or two depending on how technical you wanna be). The slight difference is instead of protecting the town from a vague bandit gang who steals food from the town you have Bartholomew Bogue, a ruthless capitalist who intends to get the towns people off their land by any means necessary.
The heroes this time around consist of Denzel Washington playing a lawman who has some type of history with Bouge, Chris Pratt as a gambler who seems oddly skilled. They’re basically playing themselves as cowboys, and are arguably the 2 “main” of the 7 (although the movie does a good job of letting everyone shine). The other 5 however are in full character acting mode.
Ethan Hawke plays a poetic, guilt ridden sharpshooter, Byung-hun Lee plays his best friend and emotional support, who happens to be the most skilled out of all the group. Vincent D’Onofrio goes over-the-top (in a good way) as a soft spoken, scripture reciting, skull crushing wilderness man; Manuel Garcia-Rulfo plays a Mexican outlaw who joins the group basically because he’s bored, and finally Martin Sensmeier plays a Comanche warrior.
All the actors work well together and no one really outshines each other. Hayley Bennett also plays the woman who hired the 7, and is the unofficial 8th member.
All in all, the movie is pretty good. It's not trying to subvert any western tropes or be revisionist, it’s just a western with a big budget, by a director who makes pretty good action movies. And that's what this movie is, a pretty good action movie. The gunfights are creative and tightly edited, the tone is bright and energetic, and the movie just works.
It of course, like the original, isn't a perfect movie, but it's a completely watchable, big budget, B-movie, with a great cast and plenty of action. I’d recommend it.