In the Home Theater: The Magnificent Seven (2016) Review
Knowing that The Magnificent Seven was dropping on digital last month, I took the time to go back and watch the original. I had it on a DVD that I've had for years but never gotten around to viewing. The original is wonderful. And I'm a guy who doesn't like Westerns. It was a surprisingly forward thinking commentary on racial relations at a time when things in the real world on that topic were not what they should be. Kind of like today. And Antoine Fuqua, director of Training Day, renders a similar message in the modern-day take.
This film reunites the principal creator and performers from Training Day. Denzel, who earned an Oscar from his outing with Fuqua, is reunited with Ethan Hawke, and the performances are solid, while perhaps not as raw as those in Training Day. One thing I noticed and appreciated is that a lot of the time when actors are paired with a Director they have worked with before, they shoehorn in some callback to the past work in a scene in the new movie. It's tropish and comes off as cheesy. None of that happened here and I was glad. The two headliners are further paired with Chris Pratt, an actor whose star is on an atmospheric rise, Vincent D'Onofrio, another award winning actor, and Peter Sarsgaard. It's a pretty star-studded cast, even if these are not all triple-A stars. They are all solid method actors (Pratt might be a bit more of a character actor) and the film shows it.
The story changes the background of the main characters from the original, but it all fits and does not seem arbitrary. I preferred the ending in the original film; the characters who survive in that film made a bit more sense than those remaining in this one. The secondary actor lineup of cast portraying the townsfolk are not scripted as well as in the first film. But the first flick is a bit longer I believe, or at least it felt that way, and the Seven have more screen-time to really become integrated with the townspeople. Also, the first film has two major engagements between the protagonists and antagonists. This film just has one, really big, battle. It does not feel rushed, necessarily, just not as fleshed out and developed as the original. Overall the film is pretty well-paced. I was never bored, and the slower parts felt appropriate.
There is not nearly so much romance in this one, and not nearly as much philosophy talk about the nature and state of man and mankind. It's an action flick, and vengeance plays a much larger part here, whereas the first film was just about Seven guns doing the right thing. And so the feeling of heroism does not convey so much a sense of altruism as the first cast.
So I have obviously spent most of this review comparing this one to the original, I guess because that is the lens I viewed it through having viewed the films in close proximity to each other. But I do not feel that the first Seven was a better film per se. My walk away feelings are just a bit different. Fuqua's film is solid, while I do feel that the cinematography was just fine, but nothing special. The first film evens it out with pacing that is not as engaging as the newer one, with some pretty frequent periods of really slow action. In fact, the first film is a bit of a talking heads flick. All-in-all, they are pretty even, and both border on being excellent. There's room left at the end of the recent Seven for a sequel.
VERDICT: 7.5 / 10.0
It's a pretty wonderful thing to see the main stars and Director of Training Day reunited in a completely different film with Denzel and Hawke having an entirely different dynamic. It's a solid appearance of Denzel as an action hero despite his advancing years, and he is every bit as engaging as Neeson's recent action revival has been. I love Chris Pratt, but he is starting to feel a bit Depp-ish, with each of his roles feeling like variants of the same basic theme. But they are high-paying jaunts he is getting to go on, so I cannot say that I blame him. Outside of the heavies in the cast, the ones who have won awards or been cast-members of award-winning big and small-screen efforts, the rest of the cast are a bit of window dressing. But I like the tangents taken on revising the character and plot backgrounds and differentiating each of them with different motivations and tragedy than the original. It'll keep you entertained for sure, and it's worth of night of staying in to NetFlix and chill once it is available there.