By Blake Nelson
Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven” had me nervous as soon as it was announced. Not only is the original “Magnificent Seven” a classic western, but that film was based on the all-time classic “Seven Samurai,” an Akira Kurosawa masterpiece.
After seeing the finished product, it’s safe to say that I wasn’t blown away. But I can honestly say that I had a good time watching the movie. I even enjoyed Fuqua’s retelling better than (and this might be controversial) Quentin Tarantino’s homage, “The Hateful Eight.”
Tarantino’s film was good, probably technically better than Fuqua’s, but “The Hateful Eight” had too many Tarantino quirks for me to truly like it. The striking characters, the dialogue and the tongue-in-cheek directing is just too much for me.
It seems Fuqua set out to make a western — plain and simple. There was never any sort of irony to take me out of the film, which is a trend in Hollywood that I don’t necessarily like. Also, none of the characters felt like actors, except for Josh Faraday, played by the unmistakably singular Chris Pratt.
Because of all this, the film was actually engaging. There are multiple points throughout the film that were truly engrossing. The one that sticks out to me is the scene in which the troops are descending upon the small town our protagonists intend to protect.
Beyond that, the acting by Denzel Washington who plays Chisolm, the lead, and Vincent D’Onofrio who plays the eccentric mountain man Jack Horn was great. The rest of the cast delivered fair performances, really getting into the roles.
The film does have its major flaws, however. Namely, the film doesn’t have finesse — or the attention to detail the original(s) have.
Characters’ backstories are either glossed over or so briefly mentioned it seems comical. The Native American character Red Harvest has literally one line of backstory: “The elders told me I had a different path.” I guess they needed a seventh and he was the one to fill it.
There are some incredibly implausible moments in the film as well. Specifically, the end battle that has a gatling gun unloading hundreds of bullets with one clip. Or characters taking multiple gunshots and still being able to ride horses. That was one of the only things that really took me out of the movie.
This might be nitpicking, but what is going on with the score? The original “Magnificent Seven” has one of the most highly regarded soundtracks of all time, but the new soundtrack is forgettable compared to it. It’s such a missed opportunity to pay proper tribute to the original by making a great score.
Anyway, Fuqua’s film is no masterpiece, and probably won’t be considered a classic by any means. The film’s flaws, at times, outweigh its goods, but for me the major triumph comes in the making of a film for the sake of making a film, rather than making an ironic and dull film that purely strokes the director’s ego.
I would gladly take 2016’s flawed remake of a classic “The Magnificent Seven” as a genuine western than the homage of “The Hateful Eight”
Blake Nelson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.