It has been fifty-six years since John Sturges’s Magnificent Seven, itself a wild-west re-imagining of Akira Kurosawa’s critically acclaimed Seven Samurai from 1954. The 2016 update does not deliver, nor even compare with the earlier films however and while it packs the barrel with explosions and big-name Hollywood actors, pacing issues and a reductive good vs. evil gloss on the original’s more nuanced plot deflate the overall experience.
The essential elements remain; seven guys are recruited to deal with a pantomime villain (Peter Sarsgaard) and his assorted minions. In keeping with the depth of the acting remit, all actors perform ably, though it is doubtful there will be any Oscars for this one. The music, with the exception of the odd reference to the original soundtrack, is also pretty forgettable, though hardcore western fans may appreciate the effort to emulate the classics. On a similar note the film does its best to make the action feel typically western. Denzel Washington may still need practice to spin his revolver with the greats, but Pratt’s efforts would probably warrant the Clint Eastwood seal of approval.
Pacing issues plague the film however. Chief among them is the primary antagonist’s early departure for a significant portion of the film, which makes it difficult to care when he eventually turned up again. The manner in which the seven are initially rounded up also felt disjointed and episodic. It is certainly difficult not to mentally retitle the film Marvel’s Magnificent Seven Assemble. To its credit the film does manage to skim just above the line of genuinely boring, but this is still only a passing grade.
In the end though, it seems unfair to criticise a remake on grounds of unoriginality. The performances are functional enough and indeed there are certain ways in which The Magnificent Seven remains faithful to the 1960 original that also elevate it above the standard cynical cash grab that has become commonplace. If you are not bothered by predictability and can stick with it long enough to reach the inevitable final battle, you probably won’t resent the entrance fee.
Image: Gage Skidmore; Flickr.com