The American West: few other genres of American cinematography have so enamored the populace in such a visceral manner. We love the romance, the danger, the adventure, all wrapped up in a tortilla of blazing saddles and high-noon gunfights.
An original American western is a masterpiece; however, what can arguably be better is a well-crafted remake. That is exactly what Antoine Fuqua delivered in his reboot of “The Magnificent Seven,” one of the most iconic American westerns yet produced.
Western remakes, and remakes in general, are usually derided by movie fanatics as products of crass commercialism, culminating in an outcry against a general lack of originality in Hollywood that many see as endemic of the film industry.
To this, I say that they might have a point, and not solely because crass commercialism has ruined several other great parts of our culture.
Originality is inherent in a society that values individualism and creativity as pivotal in maintaining meaningful culture and a strong society. Remakes, at least to the degree of recent decades, dull such individualism, creating a mass of people that are unused to reviewing films critically and choosing their patronage based upon the quality of a film rather than on the quality of the trailer.
There are a few instances, however, in which remakes not only do justice to the originals, but also build upon them to make something unique. Such films pay homage to the genre to which they belong, bringing forth lost filmmaking arts with a modern flair that not only justify the existence of a genre, but also satisfy the audience with entertainment and intellectual nourishment.
“The Magnificent Seven” is one such remake. It takes the best portions of the original 1960 work by John Sturges (itself based on Akira Kuraoawa’s “Seven Samurai”), while making several additions to the work that allow modern audiences to appreciate it in a new, fresh manner.
The plot is as straightforward as it was in the ’60s. The audience is taken back to the Old West circa 1879. A corrupt industrialist by the name of Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) ensnares the small mining hamlet of Rose Creek, slaughtering a score of locals led by Matthew Cullen (Matt Bomer) who dared to stand up to Bogue’s greed. Emma Cullen, played by the excellent Haley Bennett, and her friend Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) flee and seek someone to settle Emma’s desire for vengeance.
The couple comes upon warrant officer Sam Chisholm, played by legendary actor Denzel Washington, who refuses their pleas until he learns that Bogue ran the gang of ruffians who took over the hamlet.
Chisholm recruits a posse of gunslingers to help him in his endeavor to retake Rose Creek from Bogue’s clutches. He first finds a gambler named Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), who is eager to help. They are later joined by several others: Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a noted sharpshooter; Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), who wields a knife; a tracker named Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio); a Comanche brave named Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier); and Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a notorious Mexican bandito.
Together they aim to win Emma and Teddy Q their vengeance and free the settlement of Rose Creek.
Long story short, there’s a lot of death, ambushes and riding off into the sunset, as well as a Gatling gun and plenty of firepower.
One cannot overlook, moreover, that this movie is the final film of celebrated composer James Horner.
With the above, alongside its all-star cast and crew, this movie does what few have ever accomplished in the storied history of filmmaking: It serves as a remake that isn’t terrible. In this humble writer’s opinion, that is not nothing.