Antoine Fuqua has got to be the most unique filmmakers in the industry today. He has this innate ability to make the most interesting scenarios into highly superficial and mostly uninteresting movies.
If you take a look at his filmography — King Arthur, Southpaw, Tears of the Sun, Shooter, Olympus has Fallen — they’re all films that should have been very entertaining because of the premise and star cast but are actually frustrating duds. Fuqua’s new film The Magnificent Seven follows the same pattern and the results are expectedly underwhelming.
A remake of the 1960 classic of the same name, which itself was a remake of Kurosawa’s Japanese film, The Magnificent Seven is classic Hollywood — doing a rehash with more of the unnecessary stuff like mindless violence and a huge cast and not paying enough attention to the character development or soul.
There are a busload of characters as you can guess by the title. Peter Sarsgaard is a villainous industrialist named Bogue who arrives at a remote western town in search for gold, and threatens the residents to pay up of clear out of town. Emma (Haley Bennett) a young girl from the town whose husband is murdered looks for help and bumps into the bounty hunter Sam (Denzel Washington). Sam offers to help the village and starts to build his team to thwart Bogue. His motley gang of avengers consists of liquor enthusiast Farraday (Chris Pratt), rage enthusiast Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Mexican gangster Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), gun enthusiast Goodnight (Ethan Hawke), his partner Billy (Byung-hun Lee), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
Nic Pizzolatto who wrote both True Detective seasons along with Richard Wenk turns out a script that is largely faithful to the original, but offers more violence, more mud slinging, more savagery and a darker atmosphere than expected but without much charm. Imagine The Hateful Eight without Tarantino’s knack for crackling one liners, sans the obsessive love for the spaghetti westerns and you get The Magnificent Seven. As the bland and mostly stereotypical characters bounce off each other, showcasing their star power to the cameras, you’re simply made to wait for the inevitable bloodbath of a finale.
Adapting something that’s already been done a zillion times has its problems — like finding the right balance between material to be faithful to and delivering something new for audiences who have already seen the earlier films. Fuqua does not succeed on that front.
If you’ve already seen Sholay why would you be remotely interested in an updated version with a one note Denzel Washington?
If you’re a fan of Kurosawa why would you even bother with an uninteresting filmmaker attempting to remake some of his work?
The Magnificent Seven doesn’t render a good enough answer to those questions, and though mildly entertaining in small bits it just doesn’t seem to offer any single moment that you will find new or surprising. You get an overly long climax that seems to be an unending, coldly uninteresting parade of bullets and skin slicing without an ounce of heart. It’s a testament to Hollywood not putting in much effort in 2016 to bring quality cinema out in theaters and instead focusing on the wrong things being bigger and mistaking that for being better.