When Akira Kurosawa’s 1956 film The Seven Samurai was remade into a stirring Western (The Magnificent Seven) and released in 1960, John Sturges directed a fun, colorful, and exciting adventure and one of the great classic Westerns of all time. Although I found the 1960 film version a bit slow at times during the first act, there was enough to keep me interested and entertained. This 2016 Antoine Fuqua directed version kept the story of the original, but with some character and setting changes.
The story begins in 1879 in a small frontier town in Rose Creek. Enter the antagonist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who is operating a gold mining business, and he comes into town to a church during a service and offers money to the residents for their land. They can take the offer or suffer the consequences. After burning the church and killing a few citizens, a widow, Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett), decides she isn’t going to accept Bogue’s tyranny. She searches for some men who could help her people stand up to Bogue. She soon meets an officer of the court Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who agrees to help her. The group in this version is much more diverse than in the 1960 original. Chisolm brings on Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a Mexican (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Civil War sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his Asian pal, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee). They soon find Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and a Comanche Indian Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
Like the original, it had some big names with a few relatively unknown actors in the roles. Washington delivers a decent performance, but it lacked energy and the personality to really care enough about the character. Pratt brought his usual charm and charisma, but the character still remained insufficient to truly feel for the character. The remaining five also failed to provide any real connection. However, Sarsgaard nearly shines as the greedy villain. He provides a performance that makes you want a satisfying character death.
There were aspects I liked about this film, and it had its highs and lows, but it seemed to lack the energy and overall pace of the original. On its own, this film is a decent Western. But viewing it as a remake, it lacks something from the original. I did like the fact that the protagonist (Chisolm) and antagonist (Bogue) had more of a background connection and the bad guy’s demise was a little more satisfying in this version than the original. Additionally, the film had a decent build up as the seven were rounded up and the tension was building until the final confrontation, it didn’t have the same impact as the original. And while the final climactic battle between Bogue and his army of men and the citizens of Rose Creek and the seven was cinematic, it seemed a little more than just the underdog beating the odds and coming out victorious. I wanted to like this film more, but overall, it just didn’t catch my interest as much.
I have yet to view the original source (The Seven Samurai), but with an acclaimed remake in 1960 that spawned three sequels, it hardly seems another remake is needed here.