What It's About: Maybe the word "magnificent" in the title raises expectations for the remake of a revered classic western, but "The Magnificent Seven"' turns the simple framework of seven outlaws hired to save a town from a ruthless opportunist into solid, if not spectacular, entertainment.
While the unspoiled grandeur of the frontier is often breathtaking in this reboot, the majesty of John Sturges' epic 1960 shoot ’em up that teamed a bevy of action stars, including Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, is lacking.
Director Antoine Fuqua, known for staging explosive action scenes, uses his favorite tricks and techniques in "The Magnificent Seven" reboot. He transforms the gunslingers into a diverse wild bunch that gloriously blazes in his fancy shoot-outs.
The biggest problem is major characters are underdeveloped — and three screenwriters also used the source material of "The Seven Samurai," Akira Kurasawa's landmark 1954 homage to westerns set in feudal Japan.
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So Nic Pizzolatto ("True Detective" Seasons 1 and 2), Richard Wenk (Fuqua's "The Equalizer" in 2014) and John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") failed to give this macho A-team more heft to build on, and some perplexing choices were made.
Performances: Two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington, as usual, commands the screen as Sam Chisholm, a slick tough guy who rounds up wanted criminals — correcting people who call him a bounty hunter. He's dressed all in black, but he's a righteous dude with a strong sense of justice. He’s a man of few words. When he whispers, look out.
Haley Bennett ("The Girl on the Train") is the breakout star here as the widow who hires Chisholm to help the homesteaders avenge Lone Creek.
Chisholm wrangles a motley crew of six — Chris Pratt, as hard-drinkin' and gamblin' Faraday; Ethan Hawke as the Confederate Angel of Death Goodnight Robicheaux; Byung-hun Lee as his Korean friend Billy Rocks; Grizzly Vincent D'Onofrio as an imposing mountain man; Martin Sensmeier as cunning Comanche Red Harvest; and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as sharpshooter Vasquez.
Pratt ("Jurassic World") plays a version of his usual jaunty flawed hero. Not sure it fits here. Hawke and Washington, who worked together in Fuqua's "Training Day," have a palpable chemistry, but Goodnight's crisis of conscience needed more screen time.
D'Onofrio ("The Judge") looks formidable but effects a high-pitched voice, which is confusing. Lee ("Terminator: Genisys"), Sensmeier ("Westworld") and Garcia-Rulfo ("Cake") are treated as expendable.
As the villain, Sarsgaard ("Kinsey") goes a little too Snidely Whiplash to strip his bad Bart of any cunning — he's just loathsome. His hostile takeover plans are eerily contemporary.
What Works: Action takes precedence over storytelling, if you prefer that in a western.
What Doesn't Work: Ready to hear Elmer Bernstein's iconic score? Well, you will have to wait until the end, when the late great James Horner's composition morphs into Bernstein's original. MGM is a co-producer on the film, so that took care of the rights.
There is good, bad and ugly in this new western for a new age, but a PG-13 rating? The violence is intense, and there is a lot of it in the final showdown.
This film did not need to be more than two hours, especially if characters were going to be given the short shrift.
Nevertheless, fans of westerns can rejoice about getting back in the saddle.
“The Magnificent Seven”
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes ad Matt Bomer.
Rated: PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking some language and suggestive material.