The Magnificent Seven review: Brilliant cast, but don't expect greatness

Have you ever opened up a soda and been really excited to drink it? Of course you have. Though, have you ever gone to taste that first sip and unfortunately notice the soda to be flat. You get that weird feeling where it doesn’t taste bad but you know it’s not as great as it could be. That’s the best way I can describe my feelings for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It’s not a bad film but it doesn’t live up to its full potential.

The film, which is considered a remake of the 1960 John Sturges classic starring Charles Bronson and Steve McQueen, is technically the second remake of the story. Back in 1954, Akira Kurosawa directed “Seven Samurai,” which became the inspiration for the Yul Brynner film in 1960. Some will argue that this 2016 film is not a remake but an homage. I’ve heard others comparing it to Peckilnpah’s “The Wild Bunch,” which is a masterpiece.

I love Antoine Fuqua as a filmmaker. “Training Day,” “Brooklyn’s Finest” and “Olympus Has Fallen” were all fantastic films. Sure, “Olympus Has Fallen” is more of an over-the-top action film but it worked and achieved exactly what it set out to be. “Training Day” is Fuqua’s masterpiece which earned Denzel Washington his first leading Academy Award. “The Equalizer” was solid but forgettable. Though, the ending action scene in the Home Depot-type store was incredible. When it comes to Denzel Washington movies, I prefer that style of Denzel; i.e. “Man on Fire.” The scene when he says “Forgiveness is between them and God. I just arrange the meeting.” is beyond epic. Rest in peace to the incredible Tony Scott.

What I love about Antoine Fuqua is that he loves filmmaking. He loves paying homage to classic films and that’s apparent in the way he shot “The Magnificent Seven.” Using 35mm film and a fantastic partial score from the late James Horner, Fuqua’s filmmaking really shines. Unfortunately, it’s the editing, pacing and overall storytelling that don’t live up to some of the film’s greatest elements including its brilliant cast.

I want to take a second to focus on James Horner. Horner, who was one of the greatest composers of all time, was tragically killed in a plane crash back in June of 2015. Horner, who composed classic film scores for “Titanic,” “Avatar” (Where the score was better than the entire film) and “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, is an absolute legend. As with most great composers, Horner’s music was the leading emotional element to a cinematic journey. He had been working on music for “The Magnificent Seven” and after his tragic passing, the music was gifted to Antoine Fuqua to use in the film. Fuqua said that Horner had completed seven or eight themes including a partially finished theme for Washington’s character. These themes included with the cinematography are the strongest elements of the film.

On another positive note, the cast is fantastic. Denzel Washington, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett all deliver great performances. I love Chris Pratt but I thought his performance was a bit flat. Similarly to “Jurassic World,” I felt like his part wasn’t written well. Pratt does the best job with the material he is given. When you see him with a script as great as “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Parks and Recreations,” you can really see him shine as an actor.

The 35mm cinematography looks gorgeous. Fuqua brilliantly captures the western feel and it blends so well with Mr. Horner’s score. I just wish the film was edited and paced better. There are times where it really does drag and feels a bit anti-climactic. Even the action didn’t blow me away.

One of the film’s highlights is Peter Sarsgaard as the leading villain. Yet, we only get a very limited amount of him on-screen. You almost forget about him during the middle of the film because he’s primarily in the beginning and ending. This was a fantastic performance that I felt went to waste because the film’s overlong running time makes it feel a bit sloppy.

Did I have fun watching it? Sure. The ending action scenes were well-directed but nothing stood out as GREAT in the action. One thing I did notice was how violent this film was for a PG-13 rating. While there’s not much blood, there are so many deaths by stabbing and gun shots. I was actually shocked to learn it was PG-13 considering how brutally violent it is. To me, the MPAA really needs to reorganize their rating priorities. The idea that a film can be R-Rated if the F-word is used more than two times yet a film with this much violence is PG-13, makes no sense at all. They get away with the violence because of the lack of blood. Remember the House of Blue leaves sequence in “Kill Bill” where Tarantino turns the scene black and white? That was because the MPAA would have given him an NC-17 because of all the red blood spray. By putting it in black and white, Tarantino could still show the graphic nature of the violence but couldn’t show all the red blood spraying for the majority of the scene.

Overall, the THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’s cast, cinematography and score over power the action and storytelling. There are GREAT elements inside this mediocre/forgettable overall film. 3/5. Worthy of a matinee but don’t expect greatness.

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