By Josh Widdowson
Full disclosure: I am not a fan of the Western genre.
It’s not that I don’t respect actors like John Wayne and others for providing what was a very popular movie and TV genre. I just found the Western very bland when I was growing up, and I needed something in the story to keep my interest through the final shoot-out.
Some of the westerns I actually like are “Shenandoah” starring Jimmy Stewart, the TNT Made-for-TV film “Purgatory” which was a western meets The Twilight Zone, and the original 1960 film “The Magnificent Seven” starring Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen and others.
Granted, it was a westernized version of Akira Kurosawa’s film “Seven Samurai”, it still presented a solid story and a bit of the psychology of the hired gun and the people who were hiring them.
I had my doubts about if this 2016 version of “The Magnificent Seven” would live up to its predecessor. It is essentially the same story as the original: A town is being terrorized by a villain who brings an army to bully the townspeople into submission, some townspeople hire seven men to help them and they are trained in how to defend themselves.
It culminates in a big gun fight that pits the seven and the town against the villain. But to me, the film feels watered down.
There are several nods to the original film. While Yul Brenner was named Chris Adams and Denzel Washington was Sam Chisolm, they both represented a leader and a man who got attention wherever he went. Yul wore black cowboy duds, as did Denzel. Each position of the seven is well-represented in both films, and yes, there are some great action sequences.
The weak film is by no means the fault of the film’s stars and cast. Each one was cast to play to their strengths.
Denzel is a leading man, regardless of skin color, Chris Pratt was great as the wise-cracking action hero (His cardistry is excellent by the way), Vincent D’nofrio, known for playing some crazy characters, once again channels his crazy as a tracker, and Ethan Hawke makes a great troubled former confederate soldier, and the rest of the supporting cast certainly tries to hold the story together. But as I said the story was watered down, and I guess we have the politically correct world to thank for that.
In the original “Magnificent Seven”, the village that was terrorized was a small Mexican farming community, with the villagers crossing the border to find the gunmen they need.
In the remake, the village is taken out of Mexico and placed in the generic American West, and if you saw a black man in that village outside of Denzel, they were a slave to the mines. Everyone else was white. The villain, himself a bandito in the original film, was also made a white man, a robber baron trying to grab land for gold mining.
To me, these changes have diluted and “white-washed” the story altogether. Some of the romance of the trip to Mexico is removed, and the journey for the seven doesn’t seem as arduous.
They try to make up for it with a subplot involving what may be PTSD, and modernized action sequences that were sometimes pain-inducing for me, but it is not enough to make the film as good as it’s predecessor.
The 2016 version of “The Magnificent Seven” is good for an action flick.
For a man, there’s plenty to cheer about, a lot of gunplay and explosions to bring it on par with action films of today, and it’s great to hear and see some nods to the original classic. But if they were trying to reboot it as a money-making franchise for MGM and Columbia Pictures, it’s too weak to do it. if you want the beauty that is “The Magnificent Seven”, watch the original.
It may be old-school, but in this case, Yul and Steve beat out Denzel and Chris.
“The Magnificent Seven”
Directed by Antoine Fuquha
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt
Grade: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Josh Widdowson is a frequent guest columnist for The Inscriber, commenting on movies, sports, current events, and food. He loves sports, his girlfriend, Pittsburgh Sports, cooking and good music, although not necessarily in that order.