Dueling Critics: The Magnificent Seven

17:53 September 22, 2016
By: David Vicari, Fritz Esker

Desperate townspeople hire a motley crew of gunmen to save their town from a tyrannical industrialist in this western remake that was partly shot in Baton Rouge.


Fritz: I've seen the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven with Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner. But I saw it on TV when I was in high school and remember very little about it. You remember it better than I do. How does that film compare with director Antoine Fuqua's remake starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt?


David: I think it compares well. Thankfully, Fuqua's film isn't a shot for shot remake. Sure, it follows the same trajectory but it is its own movie. There are differences in story and characters. In fact, the original Magnificent Seven is generally a scene for scene copy of the movie that it is a remake of - Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (1954). This is a formula that works time and time again, in pretty much any genre - it even got the science fiction treatment in the Roger Corman produced Battle Beyond the Stars (1980).

So, what do you think of this current remake?


Fritz: I think it's middling. There's a lot of meandering in the middle section. The villain, played by Peter Sarsgaard, makes a strong impression in the opening scenes, but then he almost entirely disappears until the final 30 minutes. Considering the fact that the movie is over 130 minutes long, it could have used a little more conflict in its middle section. Granted, the actors are charismatic enough that there are a few charming moments along the way and as you say, there's an iconic appeal to a story of underdogs being whipped into shape to fight a seemingly unstoppable bad guy. I left feeling it wasn't bad, but could've been better.

You liked it more than I did. What appealed to you?


David: First and foremost, it's an exciting action picture. The big shoot-out finale was very well done. And I enjoyed the performance. Of course, Washington does a fine job as the leader of the hired seven , and Chris Pratt, as his right hand, is the comic relief, but he does down play it this time around. The stunning Haley Bennett gives a strong performance as a widow out for revenge. Ethan Hawke, as the has-been sharp shooter is good and he has great chemistry with his knife-wielding Chinese partner (Byung-hun Lee). Martin Sensmeier is super cool as a Comanche warrior and his hand-to-hand fight with a villainous Indian is bad ass. Vincent D'Onofrio's bear of a character is one of his better performances of recent years. However, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo's Mexican ladies man character could have been give more to do.

Sure, Sarsgaard maybe could have had a few more scenes, but he's so good at playing a bad guy that his character's ominous presence is felt throughout the movie even when he's not on screen.


Fritz: Yeah, the excitement wasn't there for me for large parts of Act 2. One other thing that bears mentioning is that the film features the final score of the late, great James Horner. He won an Oscar for Titanic and was nominated for several more. Many of his non-nominated scores were excellent, too (Sneakers, The Rocketeer, and 48 Hours are all great).


David: Yes, Horner's music was good and he is missed. Incidentally, the icon score to the original Magnificent Seven, by Elmer Bernstein, can be heard over the cast end credits of this new version.

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