How the West Was Really Won, Magnificently!
The Magnificent Seven
e Magnificent Seven: Rated “PG-13“ (2 hours, 13 minutes)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
To Remake or not Remake; That is the Question!
As a rule, we are not in favor of remakes, especially when those remakes are of most excellently made, classic films. After all, it was the production values and the acting that mad the film work so well in the first place, so unless you plan on bringing something new, different, or exciting to the remake why even bother? (In fact, our stand has always been why remake an iconic film, it was made excellently in the first place, why not take a mediocre film, or one that should have/could have been great and make it better — could you seriously think that anyone could make The Godfather I or II better? Citizen Caine, Gone with the Wind?) And yet, here we are reviewing a remake of The Magnificent Seven.
The Magnificent Seven (Special 1960 Edition)
A (Very) Brief history of the Seven
Needless to say; John Sturges’ 1960 Seven was actually a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (a 1954 Japanese epic historical drama adventure film that was actually modeled after American westerns of the era). That original group of actors who comprised the Seven consisted of Yul Brynner, Horst Buchholz, Brad Dexter, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn. The U.S. film was so well received that it spawned a 1966 sequel where the three survivors of the initial film; Chris (Brynner), Vin (Fuller), and Chico (Mateos) recruit four new members to replace their fallen comrades so as to re-form the group and help defend some Mexican villages from vicious bandits. In ‘69 George Kennedy took over Brynner’s role of Chris for Guns of the Magnificent Seven, only to be succeeded by Lee Van Cleef in ‘72’s The Magnificent Seven Ride!. (There was also a TV series that ran from 1998 –2000 that stared Michael Biehn (Chris), Eric Close (Vin), and Ron Perlman (Josh). Robert Vaughn, one of the seven gunmen in the original 1960 movie, often guest-starred in the series.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) - Official Trailer (HD)
Yes, They Are Magnificent!
So yes, while The Magnificent Seven has admittedly had a long and checkered cinematic history (to be sure, none of the film’s sequels actually did have the impact as did the original, and — lets be clear — we were never even aware of the TV series), but all of these versions were all essentially sequels or spinoffs, while this new Antoine Fuqua version is the first actual remake, and as much as we are loath to admit to unequivocally enjoying a straight-up remake of a classic film, we have to say that this was a thoroughly worthwhile version of that classic Western.
The Original Seven (1960)
The Backstory of this New Seven
In the 1960 version of the film, an oppressed Mexican peasant village hired a group of seven gunfighters to help defend their homes from aggressors, in this update. All that was fundimentally altered was the location of the town itself, from Mexico to the states. Here, it is the residents of a small frontier town who are being pressured by a robber baron named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) to sell him their land to him for a paltry price. Naturally reluctant to do so, these hardy, but downtrodden folk gather together in order to determine how best to deal with the problem and how they should handle Bogue. Unfortunately for them, while they are gathered at the church, Bogue shows up with his gun-slinging thugs, threatens them, and then burns the church down. When one of the town’s citizens, Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer) stands up to Bogue he shoots Cullen dead. Unbowed, the man’s wife, Emma, (Haley Bennett) heads off with another resident to find someone who can help them win back their town.
Never Piss Off a Redhead
Gathering the Seven
During her search, Emma locates a bounty hunter named Sam Chisolm (Washington) and requests his help, at first Chisolm refuses, but when she tells him about Bogue, he changes his mind, and agrees. Chisolm’s first recruit is a man he saw handle himself quite well named Faraday (Pratt) who says yes and then they go on to recruit another five more, and head for the town. They go to the town and engage in a shoot-out where they kill all but one of Bogue’s men, whom Chisolm sends back to Bogue to deliver a message Bogue that he is totally going to hate. Chisolm then prepares the town for what is to come by informing them, that they need to get ready because Bogue is coming back with an army.
A gathering of Heroes
Preparing for the Fight to Come
What follows is a series of sequences where Chisolm and his men attempt to train the townsfolk how to shoot and what to do when Bogue’s men do arrive — which they do, with a vengeance. Not one to give up on what he believes is (or should be) “His” Bogue arrives a week hence with a veritable army of gunslingers who are bound and determined to take back the town from Chisolm’s Seven. What Bogue and his men don’t seem to understand is the determination of not only of the Seven, but what they have inspired in both the townsfolk and the rescued mineworkers who had been forced to dig Bogue’s mine just outside of town. Further, Bogue’s thugs are largely just owl hoots, recruited for their proficiency with guns, and unwillingness to actually work for a living. These men have no comprehension of how effective Chisolm and his team are at killing, something that they soon discover when they ride pell-mell into town shooting wilding expecting to find a population full of frightened farmers.
An Unforeseen Consequence
Needless to say, what they discover instead is a team of highly-skilled killers who have chosen to take up the cause of the townsfolk if for no other reason than because (as Vin Tanner (McQueen) stated in the first film), “It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, ‘Why?’ … He said, ‘It seemed to be a good idea at the time.’” Which — interestingly enough — proves to be the ideal reason as to why this film (an iconic Western) has come to be remade in this modern-day era.
The Magnificent Seven Official Trailer #2 - Charles Bronson Movie (1960) HD
A Return to Moral Certitude
We seem to be caught up in a period of moral ambiguity, where we have a rise of new robber barons, and their ilk, who threaten bodily harm on folks who simply want to live in peace. Rightly or wrongly, we perceive the Old West as a time of moral certainty, where folks helped out their neighbors, and stood up against evil simply because it was the right thing to do. We believe that these are the values that stand at the core of the American experience, and justifiably wish to return to the simplistic nature of neighbor, community, and shared ethics. So perhaps with the remake of films of this type Hollywoodland can help return this still great country to reaffirm those core values.
“It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question, ‘Why?’ … He said, ‘It seemed to be a good idea at the time.’”— Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen. 1960)
A Film well Worth Watching
Or, perhaps this is still just a really cool movie, with outstanding actors, a terrific script, and most excellent direction. Go, watch it for yourselves, and make your own decision.
Washington & Pratt
© 2016 Robert J Sodaro