Film Review: The Magnificent Seven

Film provides action and characters, but is lacking polish needed for long-term appeal.

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

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The Magnificent Seven proposes an amazing adventure with unforgettable characters, but is ironically nothing special. A reimagination of the classic 1960 Western of the same name, the film stars an ensemble cast that includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Haley Bennett. The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua and was released on September 23, 2016.

Set in 1879 during the Wild West, a California mining town is terrorized by corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bogue and his gang of hitmen. Angered after a raid claims her husband, townswoman Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) recruits a band of seven outlaws from varying backgrounds to train the town’s civilians and drive out the bandits.

Among its strengths, The Magnificent Seven manages to provide some decent characterization to its titular seven heroes and makes them all distinct in appearance in and personality. From Denzel Washington’s stone cold bounty hunter to Chris Pratt’s charming trickster Josh, all of the seven are a unique and colorful bunch that are fun to watch together. While this characterization is nothing more than surface level archetypical behavior, the viewer is never confused as to which character is which during the run time.

In addition, while nothing spectacular, the actors do a commendable job in their roles. Denzel Washington comes across as convincing in his role as hardened bounty hunter Sam, while Chris Pratt is simultaneously charming and funny. In addition, Vincent D’Onofrio plays an over the top, but endearing role as wild man Jack Horne, and Byung-hun Lee steals the show through the fighting prowess of Billy. In fact, the actors and their talent assembled together is good enough that one might be convinced they are too good for this sort of film.

If there is one thing the film does right, it’s the action scenes the Magnificent Seven get into. Gunshots rebound and spread all over the place as the characters fight to survive, along with a healthy dose of dirty fighting that allows the fights to switch from gun duels to brawling at will. The added creativity, combined with the steady and focused camera work, make for some entertaining sequences that will catch the audience’s attention.

While these sequences and characters provide a great foundation to build on, The Magnificent Seven does not do much with its interesting characters. Notably, Haley Bennett’s Emma has the potential to have an engaging character arc rivaling the presence of the band of heroes, but largely stays out of focus once they arrive. Considering the Seven are assembled based on her desire for revenge, it seems like the movie forgets why she was even there until the climax requires her to battle the bandits alongside the band of heroes.

Another issue is that aside from the battle with the bandits, the Seven do not face any real hardships or developments that force them to change in character. Rather, they get along rather well with everyone and have no dark secrets or traits that could make them distrust each other or make them consider not helping the mining town. Considering the diverse heroes include an African American bounty hunter, an exiled Comanche warrior, a Mexican bandit and an ex-Confederate soldier to name a few, the film could have gotten more mileage by having the heroes be in conflict with each other over their differing backgrounds.

Finally, the film plays rather too close to traditional Western and action conventions to be its own thing. The plot is little more than the same basic steps followed by the original Magnificent Seven, to the point that some dialogue matches up. On top of it, the film contains the old familiar ride off into the sunset and a rather one-dimensional evil villain too common among formulaic action films.

Overall, The Magnificent Seven isn’t quite as magnificent as its title suggests. It’s too formulaic and suffers narrative problems while simultaneously offering some fun action moments. It’s not terrible, but not outstanding either. It is the type of film that will be good for a single viewing, but not strong enough to engage viewers on repeat viewings.