Western Ronin | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Western Ronin

"The Magnificent Seven" is ridin' dirty

"The Magnificent Seven" is exactly what you get from the trailers, but with a little more and a little less. The main thing that makes the whole creaky enterprise work is getting a few likable actors together and hooting and hollering as they shoot their way around a hundred mustache-twirling villains. You've seen this movie before. Hell, you've seen it twice before under the same exact title, but there is still enough done right to make it worth seeing.

The 1960 version of "The Magnificent Seven" is a fun movie with immortal performances from Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Horst Bucholz and James Cobern. For a 1960's American Western, there's a bit of depth to the plotting and the ending is downright depressing. Let's be honest, though. The film doesn't really hold a candle to what started this whole storyline: 1954's "Seven Samurai."

The film doesn't try to do much of anything different with the plot. Peter Sarsgaard is a wickedly evil robber baron who has besieged a mining town called Rose Creek. The land could possibly have gold, and he's taking it and only offering $100 or death to the poor townsfolk. After shooting a few townies, the clone of Jennifer Lawrence, known as Haley Bennett, asks bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) to help protect their homes. He rounds up six more badasses and you know the rest.

So here we have a remake of a remake of a classic, which means it's a classic twice removed? Maybe, but it's still entertaining. Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier are our new Magnificent Seven. The characters aren't really the same as the original, although Hawke's character is a mash-up of Brynner, Vaughn and Brad Dexter's role and Pratt definitely has a McQueen-by-way-of-Han-Solo vibe going.

Still, it's Vincent D'Onofrio who takes the whole movie with both hands. He plays Jack Horne, a lonely tracker with a high-pitched voice and skill with a tomahawk. This movie deserves to exist just on the merits of his weird, wonderfully modulated performance. Hawke also has a strong showing, but he's always pretty great.

The gunfights are nail biting (even as the score tries to demolish the tension) and the script has a few nice moments. Another point of interest here is Nic Pizzolatto ("True Detective") having a writing credit. By seeing his name on the credits, it's easy to expect him to try some sort of deconstruction of the Western genre, but he goes old school here. This is an old-fashioned Western for both good and bad.

Honestly, there are a lot of little nitpicks to find throughout the film, but people are going to go to this to have fun—and that is exactly what it delivers. You care about your Seven (some more Magnificent than others) and that's really what drives every second of the movie. There is no nuance to how evil the bad guys are, so it's genuinely fun to watch the good guys shoot them down.

The original looked at the violence as a waste and the remaining heroes knew that they hadn't done anything truly "good." The bad guys were starving and the townsfolk were dicks and that ambiguity left you with something to take home. The remake is empty calories, but it still tastes pretty good going down.

"The Magnificent Seven"

Dir. Antoine Fuqua

Grade: B

Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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