The latest product of a Hollywood executive’s brainstorming session entitled “What haven’t we remade yet?” is a rerun of classic Western The Magnificent Seven, about a gang of, you guessed it, seven gunslingers, who are enlisted to save a village under threat from a greedy gold digger.
The latest pairing between screen legend Denzel Washington and master action director Antoine Fuqua manages to capture the pace, style, energy and fun that made The Equalizer so great, and slickly combines it with a classic Western. Washington leads an impressive ensemble cast that includes Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke, but still manages to outshine them all with his effortless coolnesss and ageless charm.
To update the film, the seven are ethnically diversified, which makes it significantly easier to tell them apart than the clean shaven white men of the original. Another significant change is the switching of the town they protect from Mexicans to Americans. It’s unclear why this is, but is possibly due to sensitivity around not wanting to appear to be a story about a group of white men protecting the poor, helpless, Mexicans, as you could argue the original is. However, this assessment is unfair on the original, which develops the villages well and ultimately has them decide their own fate.
What is lacking is the development of the characters and the depth of their relationships with the townsfolk. That’s not to say this remake is lacking in these areas, but that in the original film there is extensive bonding between the seven and the people they are protecting as they train the men to defend themselves and bond with their families. There are prominent townsfolk in the remake, but they are wiped out in droves and the connection to them feels weaker.
But at it’s core this is the same film, with updates to the action to make it slicker and faster, and with a few more explosions in to boot. They even use the original film’s iconic score over the end credits in tribute. This is how to do a remake, modernising without betraying. Magnificent.