Whenever funny man Chris Pratt appears on the big screen, you can always expect he will put the movie into a class of it’s own. The same goes for esteemed actor Denzel Washington, who’s been around since the “Glory” days, one of his big breaks that debuted in 1989. This time, the two have paired up to put on another great American Western film — one filled with “rootin’ tootin’” gun fights, Mexican standoffs and enough creative puns to make the likes of Clint Eastwood nod in appreciation. What arose was “The Magnificent Seven” — a film directed by Antoine Fuqu, who previously worked with Washington and co-star Ethan Hawke on the 2001 Academy Award-winning feature “Training Day.”
On a sour note, this is the final film that features the postmortem work of the venerated composer James Horner. Horner, who composed music for James Cameron’s “Titanic” and “Avatar,” was killed when his airplane crashed into the Los Padres National Forest in Ventucopa, Calif. in June 2015.
“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 western of the same name. The title derives itself from the film’s seven major characters, of which the leader is Sam Chisolm (Washington), a bounty hunter who takes his job very personally. Chisolm eventually crosses Josh Faraday (Pratt), a charismatic gambler who likes explosives, at a local bar. When they hear about a town that has been taken over by a corrupt industrialist named Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), they decide to gather up some men to go investigate and — eventually — fight to give the town back to its people.
What comes of “The Magnificent Seven” is the classic story of some men that stroll into town, take care of business, and then stroll off into the sunset with conflict-resolving orchestral music playing in the background. While this seems like the case for most of the movie, there are plenty of twists and turns that take you on a wild ride.
The narrative of the entire feature was slow to develop. In fact, in the very beginning, it was difficult to make any sense out of what was going on or what was about to happen. From a filmmaker’s standpoint, it’s always a good thing to keep the audience guessing, but it’s not so good when it’s nearly impossible to figure out what the character’s names are.
Many of the scenes were structured well, but at times it seemed like some of the actors, especially Pratt, were trying too hard. While Pratt has made a name for himself in other films and television shows, most notably “Parks and Recreation,” there were certain moments when he didn’t seem to take the scene seriously, further reflecting his inability to act with passion. Of course many of his roles have been in comedy and action films, which seem comfortable for him, but which limit what he could become. Washington on the other hand, who is now 61, hones his acting experience and delivers an intimidating performance.
However, every genre of film requires a different approach. For a Western film like this one (although there are plenty of spots that could’ve used some more work) there may be no need to worry about these mistakes.
If “The Magnificent Seven” were a drama, then a different approach would be necessary because the acting in a drama is more passionate and focused — and the filmmaking, in general, requires extensive editing, varied camera shots and quality directing. To analogize the two, a drama is like drinking a fine, bubbling glass of Dom Perignon while a Western is like drinking whiskey on the rocks; both of which are great to drink, but are prepared very differently.
The strong characterization and swagger of all the major characters is what takes the cake in “The Magnificent Seven.” The well-choreographed action sequences also make the movie a pleasure to watch. Taken for everything that it is, this is another quality Western film and one that deserves the respect of many moviegoers.