A remake of The Magnificent Seven, which itself was a reimagining of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, should be destined for mediocrity. Yet the under-appreciated Antoine Fuqua repeats his success with reimagining old properties, as the updates to The Magnificent Seven are both relevant and welcome.
Reuniting with Denzel Washington, Fuqua’s vision for The Magnificent Seven is an anti-capitalist statement – largely achieved by turning the bandits from the original into an evil industrialist (Peter Sarsgaard). The premise of a greedy capitalist destroying a small town now echoes the present-day problems with corporations like Wal-Mart.
Meanwhile, the diverse casting implicitly links past American crimes like slavery and the exploitation of Asian-American labour to present-day problems where capitalism disproportionately affects people of colour. It’s mostly subtext though, which gives The Magnificent Seven a surprising degree of subtlety.
The cast of seven perform their parts admirably, each member possessing a unique personality. Denzel Washington could play this role in his sleep, but he does a great job as the stoic leader Chisolm. Meanwhile, like Jurassic World, the mischievous Faraday is another Diet Chris Pratt performance – but this is balanced by the friendship between Robichaux (Ethan Hawke) and Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), which gives the film a real emotional core.
When it eventually arrives at the blowout battle scene, Fuqua does a decent job of making the action intense despite its bloodlessness. There are moments where potential is wasted; a battle between Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and his Native American antithesis felt disappointingly limp in execution.
Ultimately, this new Magnificent Seven is B-grade in terms of filmmaking, but then again so was the original. Yet, through its changes, this 2016 rendition feels relevant and noble in its themes. As far as remakes go it’s the best version of itself it could hope to be.
CAST: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard
DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua
WRITERS: Nic Pizzolatto, Richard Wenk (screenplay), Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto & Hideo Oguni (based on the screenplay by)
SYNOPSIS: Threatened by a corrupt industrialist, a small town recruits seven gunslingers to defend themselves from destruction.