The Magnificent Seven


Jack Brink

Rating: PG-13

Score: 6/10 stars

The latest incarnation of The Magnificent Seven roared into theaters on Sept. 23, 2016, and while it easily delivered on great action and cool moments, it still ran into the multitude of problems that have plagued this summer blockbuster season.

The Magnificent Seven tells the story of Emma Cullen (Haley Bennet), who after having her town victimized and her husband massacred by the evil industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), hires a group of seven men to save her town. Those men being: The gun-slinging bounty hunter Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington), gambling troublemaker Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt), confederate marksman Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), East Asian knife expert Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), violent tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and the mysterious tribe-less Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).  

It must be said: These characters are all awesome in their own way. They all have unique traits and facets of their character. This is where the movie lives and dies sadly, as while some characters are given plenty of screen time to develop and be allowed to turn into truly great characters, others are given barely any time at all and feel just simply “there”. This is a problem I’ve had to address multiple times lately (such as in my reviews for Suicide Squad and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), and it’s all caused by one thing. That being, movies having to be over-bloated with way too many characters and too little time to tell stories for them all. This unfortunately has now happened to The Magnificent Seven, although it would be hard not to, considering the material they’re adapting.

Of the seven heroes, Chisholm, Faraday, and Goodnight are all given ample screen time and a great amount of character development to become truly memorable characters. We either learn their backstories or we get to see them gain redemption for something. The movie makes us care for them and their well-being, which works great in the film’s favor as it makes the already heart-stopping climatic battle that much more intense. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the rest of the seven, as the other four are relegated to nothing more than one-dimensional killing machines. Virtually no backstory is given to them, as well as no real fleshed-out personality traits besides the ones you initially get to see when you first meet them (this is especially true for Red Harvest and Vasquez), so you don’t really care enough about them to fear for their lives in the final battle. With only two hours to introduce and build up multiple main characters, The Magnificent Seven was bound to leave some characters less defined than others.

The short runtime is also quite damaging to the chemistry between the characters as well, as with the need to introduce all the characters and the need for a long (but great) final battle; there is no time to establish important relationships between characters. This means any comradery (which there is little of) between the seven feels forced and not genuine, which is a shame, because the group dynamic and how different character types interact with each other is usually the best part of giant team-up movies (case in point: The Avengers). The film’s villain, Bogue is also undermined by a lack of development, as he’s not a bad villain, just a very generic and bland one, which could very well be attributed to the fact he disappears from screen for a large chunk of time so that more focus can be put on the seven.

While the movie, without a doubt, has its flaws in characters and story, it makes up for what it lacks with its gorgeous, old western visuals. Everything looks and feels like the way it’s supposed to in the old west, and of course the incredible action sequences only add to the film. The set pieces are amazing, and shot beautifully, with action that is thrilling and pulsating. It has by far some of the smoothest, most satisfying action sequences put onto screen in a long time.

As previously mentioned, the film does do right by some of its characters, and Washington and Pratt are stellar in their roles, both being cool in a way that you could only dream of being, but somehow down to earth. Both men easily justify their characters getting more substantial roles. Bennet is great in the film as well, and her character Emma is a completely refreshing take on females in the old west, as her character is far more than just a damsel in distress, with her active role in the final battle. The movie does a great job handling minorities, representing multiple ethnicities (Asian, Mexican, African American, and Native American) as well, while not making those characters’ defining trait be their ethnicity using stereotypes or jokes.

While some of its characters and ideas were left underdeveloped, The Magnificent Seven still has a couple entertaining characters, as well fantastic action scenes, modern and positive portrayals of minorities, and an insane amount of cool factor to make it an excellent popcorn flick.