I worried over how Chris Pratt would be used in The Magnificent Seven. I've been a fan of Pratt since his Parks and Recreation days as goofy, loveable Andy Dwyer. Watching him become a movie star has been a treat – he's all ripped and studly now, but still just as funny and down to earth as he was in his schlubby days. Watching the trailers made me fear that Pratt would be used – overused – as little more than a good-looking joke machine.
Thankfully, he gets to do more than deliver punch lines in the actual film. Not a lot more, mind you – insight and character development are in short supply in The Magnificent Seven. Here's how the first third of the movie works: you meet someone and learn their identifiable behavior and/or distinctive physical characteristic, along with one aspect of their personality that causes them trouble.
Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt). Behavior/physical characteristic: loves card tricks and explosives. Personality flaw: annoys bad guys with wisecracks.
Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke). Behavior/physical characteristic: New Orleans marksman. Personality flaw: he gets scared.
Jack Horner (Vincent D'Onofrio). Behavior/physical characteristic: Hairy mountain man. Personality flaw: can't understand a word he says.
Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee): Behavior/physical characteristic: expert with blades (Bonus: he's Korean!). Personality flaw: high strung.
Vasquez (Manual Garcia-Rulfo). Behavior/physical characteristic: Mexican. Personality flaw: only has one name.
Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Behavior/physical characteristic: Comanche warrior. Personality flaw: spends too much time in the bathroom putting on makeup.
Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett). Behavior/physical characteristic: recently widowed. Personality flaw: fixated on vengeance. NOTE: probably not really a flaw, given the circumstances. But once she gets her vengeance, she should take up a hobby.
Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Behavior/physical characteristic: unrelenting evil. Personality flaw: probably a bad tipper.
As I'm sure you know, The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the 1960 western of the same name, which is an American adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 classic, “Seven Samuri.” This version is directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) from a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, based on the screenplay by Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni.
The story is simple and sturdy. Bad guys wreck a small Western town. The survivors hire a bounty hunter to get revenge. The bounty hunter assembles a team, comes back to the town and trains the surviving townies to fight the bad guys.
I won't carp about the lack of character development. They could have, they didn't, go figure. Instead, we get clipped statements from Sam Chisom and his crew, along with lots of posturing. The camera's share of attention is divided according to star power – superstar Denzel Washington gets the most screen time, relatively new star Pratt gets a lot, there are scattered moments for recognizable names like Hawke and D'Onofrio, and a few frames here and there for the others.
Somewhere along the way, you actually start to care about the situation and the people. This has less to do with the script and more to do with the momentum of the western genre. When the big battle finally happens, it's a doozy.
James Horner does the music, which is fine, but the original Magnificent Seven theme doesn't pop up until the closing credits, and then only briefly. Odd.
The Magnificent Seven looks handsome, even if the long shots of the western town reminded me of Blazing Saddles. Come to think of it, D'Onofrio's mountain man could be the cousin of the town coot in Blazing Saddles.
After nearly a year of hype, The Magnificent Seven has arrived and proven itself to be another entertaining if underwhelming remake of a well-regarded flick. One of these days a remake is going to open that really bowls us over. Not this week.