Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Magnificent Seven (2016) Review

When I hear the words “The Magnificent Seven,” one thing immediately jumps to mind: the theme song by Elmer Bernstein. It might be they most recognizable western theme out there. Plus, I marched in the University of Texas Longhorn Band and we played “Mag Seven” frequently. And, since I'm such a band geek, he's a video of the Longhorn Band marching in 1988. "Mag Seven" is the first tune. Boy, that moving square was difficult. Yeah, I'm in there!

Other than the music, I knew about Yup Brenner and Steve McQueen. I'm sure I've seen the 1960 film, but I honestly can't recall a single detail of it.

So when I watched the 2016 version, I was basically coming in with little preconceived notions. I just wanted to hear the theme!

Even though I haven't seen the 1960 film, I'm pretty everyone knows about the plot.  Denzil Washington plays San Chisholm, a duly appointed lawman from Kansas. In the first of a series of vignettes, we see all the skills Chisholm brings as alarm in: patience and fast and quick gun work. From there, we are introduced to the other six members of Chisholm's team, starting off with Chris Pratt's Faraday, a drinker / lazy bones gunslinger who possess a great deal of charm. From there, we are introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke (a former Confederate sharpshooter), Vincent D'Onofrio (almost unrecognizable as a mountain man tracker), Byung-hun Lee (as an expert with knives and Hawke’s partner, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (as a wanted killer), and Martin Sensmeier (an exiled Comanche warrior).

Chisholm is persuaded to help the town of Rose Creek from the vile clutches of robber baron Bartholomew Bogue, played deliciously by Peter Sarsgaard. The persuader is Haley Bennett, a widow who witnessed her husband gunned down by Bogue. There's gold in Rise Creek’s valley, and its Bogue’s intention to take all the gold and the townsfolk be damned or killed.

You know how the story goes even if you've never watched the 1960 version or The Seven Samurai, the 1954 Akira Kurosawa film that inspired the original Mag Seven. Our band of brothers arrives in town and dispatches Bogue’s goons in probably the best sequence in the whole movie. It's the Seven in action, and it's fantastic and modern. 

Well, Bogue doesn't take kindly to having his men wiped out, so he fights back. But the town has time to plan, and so we get a pseudo “Saving Private Ryan” training / preparation sequence. And then the final battle. You know how it ends, but I'll leave it up to you to watch and see the details.

I enjoyed the film quite a bit. What I appreciate is depicting the Old West as dirty and sweaty, not all clean and prescribe as the old fashioned movies. The chemistry was quite nice, and I liked all the actors. Washing and Pratt are the two primary stars and they get more screen time than the others. Pratt is his charming self, and  Lee was a nice addition to the typical western rogues gallery.

And composer James Horner—in one of his last pieces—incorporates the theme! Heck I even heard a little snipped from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Did y'all hear it, too?

I was happy all around, and it makes me want to watch the 1960 version.


Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't seen the remake, though I probably will. DId see the original once upon a time and enjoyed.

Peter Collinson said...

The original Magnificent Seven is a cornerstone western classic and far better than the action movie remake.
As a western fan, and author, you need to see it.
Until you do, you're kinda showin' up at the roundup wearin' only one boot.