Magnificent Seven: Fuqua’s Western Remake is Decent and Well Acted but Overall Mediocre and Uninspired

 

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Our grade: B- (** out of *****)

First the good news: There has not been an all-star Western in quite some time, perhaps since Tarantino’s Django Unchained, three years ago.

This remake reunites Washington with Antoine Fuqua, the director of The Equalizer and Training Day, two of the actor’s bigger hits.

Washington has won his first (and only) Best Actor Oscar for the 2011 crime-policier; he had won a Supporting Actor Oscar in the late 1980s for Glory.

The new film adds Jurassic World star Chris Pratt to the mix, and should have enough firepower to keep alive the pair’s hot box-office streak.

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The film is a remake of the 1960 John Sturges western of the same name, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece, Seven Samurai.

The tale centers on a band of gunslingers who must team up to save a mining town from a rapacious industrialist (a mustache-twirling but not very compelling as a villain Peter Sarsgaard).

Fuqua has said that he was motivated to make a new version of the oft-told tale because, “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse.”  And this is the main reason to see the remake: Washington looks good riding a white horse, sorting a black hat.

On the other hand, the otherwise gifted Chris Pratt, who plays Faraday, is miscast in what’s essentially the role that Steve McQueen played with so much charm and command.

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Here are some reasons why the remake is mediocre, undistinguished and uninspired.

The movie is too generic: The story can take place anywhere.  It’s not longer a Mexican village, but a largely white community.

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The characters, excepting Washington’s, are one-dimensional, lacking distinctive personalities.

There is no chemistry between Washington and Pratt, or for that matter, among all the characters.

The scenario consists of brief interactions and one liners (some witty though anachronistic), which often come out of nowhere.

Structurally, unlike most of Fuqua’s movies, this one lacks both coherence and unified vision, consisting as it is of mostly proficiently staged, but genuinely uninspired set-pieces.

There is no romantic angle to the story.

There is basically only one female characters.

Westerns at the Box Office:

The Magnificent Seven should debut to roughly $35 million, easily topping the domestic box office, according to pre-release tracking.

Westerns can be a dicey proposition at the box office. They’re expensive to make and they don’t always have a lot of international appeal.   For every hit like “Django Unchained” or “3:10 to Yuma,” there’s a “Jane Got a Gun” or “Lone Ranger”-style disaster.

But if the genre has been hit-or-miss, Washington has been a remarkably consistent draw. He hasn’t had a film open to less than $20 million since 2007’s “The Great Debaters,” a serious drama which he directed and in which he had a supporting role.

Shot for  $90 million, The Magnificent Seven is backed by Sony Pictures, Village Roadshow, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the latter of which could use a hit.

The Magnificent Seven, which world premiered as opening night at the Toronto Film Fest, has received decent but not great reviews.

Nonetheless, it is out-selling “The Equalizer,” according to online ticketer Fandango. That action-thriller bowed in 2014 to $34.1 million.

Sony is releasing The Magnificent Seven in 3,665 locations stateside, while also rolling it out in such international territories as the UK, Germany, Spain, and Russia.