This year we have seen both the benefits and the detriments of the remake. Disney have wonderfully recreated several previously loved animations such as ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘The BFG’ showing us just why remakes can work. However the likes of the ‘Point Break’ and ‘Ben-Hur’ remakes raise questions as to why studios think it’s a good idea to mess with classics. Now we’ve arrived at the remake of the 1960 ‘The Magnificent Seven’ which is already a remake of ‘Seven Samurai’, would it strengthen or weaken the case in favour of the remake?
Antoine Fuqua was the man charged with remaking this classic western and if his recent filmography is anything to go by he had every chance of making this work. However, there is so much more than just direction which would be essential for making this a success. Let’s start with the seven themselves. Lead by Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, he’s fine in the role but he really just plays a western version of his previous action heroes. Similarly Chris Pratt who plays Josh Faraday really just does an impression of previous roles. Ethan Hawke is brought in as sharp shooter Goodnight Robichheaux and probably fares best out of everyone thanks to some character development and a good performance. His right hand man, Billy Rocks played by Byung-hun Lee, always looks out of place in the western setting but at least brings some variety to the action. Vincent D’Onofrio weighs in as tracker, Jack Horne with an ambiguously comical performance. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo gets us up to six with Vasquez, a Mexican outlaw, who only exists for Chris Pratt’s character to make unfunny jokes at. Finally rounding out the seven is Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest a Comanche warrior, he was clearly an afterthought as his recruitment to join the gang is the laziest of the lot. Largely the seven are wafer thin in terms of their characters, origins and even their likability and when compared to the cast of the 60’s version they just don’t measure up.
Aside from the seven the rest of the characters and cast are also average. The villagers have none of the fun with the seven that was so present in the sixties version as the chemistry just isn’t there. As for Peter Sarsgard’s villain, there was a lot of potential and his performance is good but he just don’t get enough screen time and isn’t written with enough villainous flare to be anything memorable.
Fifty years on you would expect there to be some improvements in the film-making and thankfully the action scenes do just that. For the most part they are fun and exciting to watch. They are the only thing that make this remake worth watching as for anyone who has seen the original the film will be painfully boring other than one set piece and the finale. However even these action scenes go on a little too long and the film features some of the most tension free stand offs I’ve seen in western history. The couple of explosions featured don’t look great either which was a shame as a more polished look would have given the film more credibility. One thing that was a little too polished though was the cast, they never really looked like they lived out here in the west. They looked like Hollywood actors dressed up to act in a western rather than real characters from this world. This meant that the film lacked a certain authenticity. However an element deserving of praise in the film is its musical score. Composed by the late James Horner and later completed by his friend Simon Franglen, it’s playful and creates a sense of excitement without simply reusing the iconic theme from the sixties.
Ultimately if a remake can’t improve on the story it’s re-telling for me it has no reason to exist and unfortunately this is the case for ‘The Magnificent Seven’. The characters and cast aren’t well enough crafted, the narrative is boring for anyone who has seen the original and there’s problems with the authenticity of it all. Thankfully the action is a saving grace, although it comes with it’s own issues, and it’s here that viewers won’t mind the bizarre inclusion of some of the members of the seven as they do add another dynamic to the gun slinging action. It’s not the worst remake we’ve seen this year but it had a long way to go as for the most part it’s a tumbleweed affair.
Rating – 5/10
Question: What is your favourite ensemble cast action film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
Thanks for reading this review and please let me know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.