‘The Magnificent Seven’ review: Been there, done that

Ah, Westerns. They showcase simpler times before gun control and equal rights, when you could harass a woman or shoot another dude for pissing you off with no consequences. Everybody loves a good Western.

One such good Western is the 1960 film “The Magnificent Seven,” a tale of redemption that was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Over 50 years later, we have a remake of the remake, a “The Magnificent Seven” for the new age. Unfortunately, casting Denzel Washington and Byung-Hun Lee to give the seven more diversity isn’t enough to make a remake fresh.

What happens?

Perpetual bad guy Peter Sarsgaard plays Bartholomew Bogue, an industrialist who takes settlers’ land by brute force. He and his men terrorize a small town, killing several, before promising to return in three weeks to take their land. Widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) begs warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Washington) to fight off Bogue, and he recruits six other gunmen to join him in the fight and help train the townspeople.

What’s good?

Everyone seems to be having a lot of fun, especially Chris Pratt, who plays the roguish Joshua Faraday. The humorous one-liners roll off their tongues (unlike the dramatic ones, which hit the ground with a thud), and their bonding is a good mixture of ribbing and fraternal affection. Director Antoine Fuqua knows how to showcase the sweeping landscapes of a Western, and such shots are appropriately gorgeous, but the film’s best moments are steeped in the chemistry of the seven.

What’s bad?

Nic Pizzolatto of “True Detective” co-wrote the script, and his bad habits from the second season of the HBO show crop up here. Cheesy, self-serious dialogue plagues “The Magnificent Seven,” which is also unnecessarily long. Aside from the enjoyable performances, the film feels stale, aggravated by the fact that it clearly thinks it’s innovative. Emma knows how to shoot a gun but is constantly condescended to, and when she does finally get her moment, immediately afterward, the gun is removed from her hands and given to a man. Did they feel like it would have been too revolutionary to make her one of the seven? All the efforts to modernize the Western feel half-baked at best, like slapping one coat of paint on a crumbling house.

Final verdict

A fine time, but so much less than the sum of its parts.

2.5 stars (out of four)

@lchval  |  laurenchval@redeyechicago.com

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