The movie is a remake of "The Magnificent Seven" by John Sturges
(1960), which is itself a Western adaptation of Kurosawa's masterpiece,
"Seven Samourai" (1954). Despite a few flaws, the 1960 version was
balanced and entertaining: cast, dialogues and music, notably, have now
become legend. In comparison the latest version delivers almost
nothing. If anything, it proves that quality is not about plot (which
is roughly similar for the two Westerns), but about style.
*** WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS ***
The three films have the same structure: 1. Context and recruitment of
the seven mercenaries; 2. Village life and training of the villagers;
3. Showdowns with the villains and conclusion. On all these parts, the
1. CONTEXT AND RECRUITMENT OF THE SEVEN MERCENARIES. The context is
over the top. The villains are horrendous, overstaffed for such a small
village and ready to kill at any rate. By the way, Bogue, if you can
murder "half a dozen" villagers for no reason, why do you even bother
offering them to buy their land? Just start shooting to make them go
The recruitment is so incredible it becomes funny: reasons for joining
the band remain completely obscure, if not absurd. Sure, I'll join this
suicide mission just because you have my horse (Faraday). Of course
I'll join because it will get just one single bounty hunter off my
back, out of the dozens chasing me (Vasquez). No, I won't join you, I
am going away
well, after all why not, even though I don't know why I
changed my mind (Horne). Hey, let's share deer liver for breakfast and
I'll go along with you (Red Harvest).
2. VILLAGE LIFE AND TRAINING OF THE VILLAGERS. Village life, where?
Villagers, who? We barely see any of this, we don't know how they live,
what they think, how they feel. They are reduced to a simple background
for the action. The character we understand most is Emma Cullen, which
says something. In the previous movies, the villagers debated about
options, asked advice to the wise elder, hid the women, betrayed the
mercenaries. We saw them discussing, working, celebrating, building
Here we only see a few minutes of the villagers' training. At first it
is a disaster, but afterwards
but afterwards nothing, we don't see how
they progress, technically and psychologically, to be able to confront
3. SHOWDOWNS WITH THE VILLAINS AND CONCLUSION. In the previous movies,
there was a build-up of the action, with limited confrontations that
eventually lead to the final climatic showdown. Here there is a first
fight as the mercenaries enter the village, and then we wait, and wait
until the final showdown that lasts forever. Loads of explosions, of
shooting, of deaths, more deaths
It is impossible to keep track of the
body count, however it seems much more than the original villain bunch.
In terms of strategy, Bogue, since you have such a terrific machine
gun, why do you use it AFTER most of your men have been massacred, not
BEFORE? We will never know. Also, why do you even bother coming to this
fight, endangering your life? Surely not because Chisolm would have
called you a coward, since you don't remember who he is anyhow.
The movie ends in utter ridicule, with Chisolm trying to make Bogue
pray with him. And when the three remaining mercenaries leave, letting
the villagers sort out the mess, the latter repeat "thank you" as a
mantra, even though most of their men died and their village is
completely ravaged. Was that better than moving away? On a moral and
symbolic ground it could have been, but then it would have required the
movie to have moral and symbolic insight, instead of just inflated
This is where it doubly fails. First, it is a standard no-brainer
action movie, while the two previous films (especially "Seven
Samourai") were talking about values, honour, courage, purpose and
dangers of fighting, characters, friendship, solidarity. Their ending
was meaningful: villagers (life) win, mercenaries (death) lose.
Dialogues were to the point; here, they are reduced and plain: just
compare for instance the Quotes section of the three films on IMDb.
There is only one scene when the main characters could have a real
conversation: the dinner in the saloon. At that point we hope the movie
will lift off the ground where it is stuck
remain dull. Earlier, it makes two weak attempts to add substance, to
no avail: Bogue's opening speech on capitalism and the ethnic diversity
of the mercenaries.
Second, it does not even succeed in being an efficient action movie: it
is full of stereotypes, lengths, overblown scenes and inconsistencies.
To some extent it tries to imitate Sergio Leone's style (or Clint
Eastwood's inspired by Leone): outfits, close shots, macabre tone,
incongruities. However it is a far cry from this Western master because
it lacks essential elements: pacing, measure, second-degree humour and
class. A typical example of superficial form without purpose. I am not
a huge fan of Tarantino (another possible reference), but at least he
would have provided rhythm and coolness to the same story.
The only quality that emerges is the solid acting. A special mention to
Denzel Washington as usual, to Ethan Hawke as a past legend now
drowning in despair and fear, to Haley Bennett as a sensitive yet
strong woman. Actually everybody is performing so well that it makes
the movie enjoyable at times.
If you haven't seen Sturges' and Kurosawa's films, you are lucky, you
will appreciate them considerably after this one.