“But I don’t like Westerns.”
I don’t care. “The Nice Guys” was my favorite movie of the summer, and I’m pretty sure “The Magnificent Seven” is going to wind up being my favorite movie of the fall.
“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 movie of the same name, which itself is an adaptation of “Seven Samurai.” There are people out there who argue that remakes are killing the movie business, but I find it hard to agree with that logic. Sure, we probably don’t need to retell every story over again, but sometimes there are ones that deserve a new treatment. It’s not a crime to create a good movie, and let’s remember that all entertainment is cyclical.
Anyway: your villain is a capitalist threatening to destroy a small farming community in order to steal the land. He has done this before. There are no redeeming aspects to Bogue, which is one, part of why the Magnificent Seven are willing to answer the call to stop him, and two, is perfectly acceptable because not every bad guy has something good underneath. In fact, some people are just bad people, and it’s great to have a villain who, as an audience member, I can just hate. That’s satisfying. The narrative doesn’t even try to get me to feel sympathy for him because why should it? The movie starts with his hired guns setting a church on fire and killing unarmed people. You want bad things to happen to this guy.
If you saw a poster for this movie, you might expect it to have the same grey-washed palette that many action movies of late have taken to using: the one that suggests darkness and has become lazy shorthand for directoral grittiness. “I’m a dark movie and you can tell by my desaturation!” That’s not the case here–it’s surprisingly bright, and that’s refreshing.
Denzel Washington might be the biggest draw to anyone trying to pick between this movie and any others currently in theaters on a date night, and that’s fair. He gives (as usual) a great performance, and while the actual movie has a pretty clear cut line between Good and Bad, there are complexities to his character (and luckily Fuqua didn’t feel the need to show flashbacks to the women in Sam Chisolm’s life for us to know what happened). He offers redemption to some men who have done some admittedly bad things–one of the characters is a former Confederate soldier, after all–while still holding Bogue responsible for the atrocities he’s committed.
The supporting cast is good and funny, and while I won’t pretend I don’t have issues with some of the characters, overall it’s a much more diverse cast than you might be used to seeing in other action movies. When some characters die, it does hurt.
There’s a complaint about this movie by some reviewers that it doesn’t do anything new, and that since there are better versions out there, there’s no point to it. I’d like to disagree. For one thing, it can serve as an introduction to Westerns (it has some of the genre’s important tropes, and follows its conventions), and for another, it’s not as overall white as older (and even some more recent) Westerns are. If you want people to get back into a dying genre, you really don’t get to be snooty about which movies they go and see. There probably aren’t many people in my generation who see Westerns as anything more than movies that their fathers like–so maybe this version of “The Magnificent Seven” is their introduction to them.
After a summer of seeing trailer after trailer for movies about spies and off-the-rail former government agents, this was a movie that stuck out to me, and for good reason. It’s not super complex, but it’s just a movie, and sometimes (especially today) you just want to see a businessman held accountable for the things he’s done. That simple kind of satisfaction and the catharsis of any well-choreographed Western gunfights makes it a movie worth seeing.