It’s so rare to have an ensemble of so many charismatic actors take up lead characters in a movie, only for it to come through as soulless. Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven totally exemplifies this phenomenon.
This project is definitely one that was slated to work on paper. Just as with other Fuqua works like Southpaw and The Equalizer, the cast is perfectly assembled, starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-Hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier and Peter Sarsgaard as lead characters.
Unfortunately, the power of this cast does little to elevate this piece from the shallowness of its plot, as it is a plain echo of its older versions by John Sturges (1960) and Akira Kurosawa (1954) but without its depth and soul. The strength of the cast was just enough to lead the audience to the climactic shootout but couldn’t match the cinematic legend of its older versions.
The simplistic plot of this movie makes it easy for the audience to track and keep up with. The residents of a small town are under pressure from a land baron, Bartholomew Bogue trying to purchase their land for a mediocre price. Bogue tyrannically oppresses these people and during a meeting converged at the church to discuss how to handle him, he shows up, burns down the church and kills a man that dared to question him.
The wife of this man runs off to find help, and while at a town she witnesses a fight where one man takes out his attackers all by himself. This man, Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) is who she goes to for help.
At first he refuses, being a bounty hunter and seeing nothing in it for him. When he hears about Bogue, he becomes interested and recruits a man whom he’s witnessed in a fight. This man, Faraday agrees and they go on to recruit five more men, making them a total of seven men.
These men go to the town oppressed by Bogue, take out his men, and send a message to Bogue through the only survivor of their assault. Chisholm then briefs the town, telling them to be ready because Bogue would embark on a revenge mission with an army.
The casting and characterization of the movie sees Peter Sarsgaard play the role of the super villain, Bartholomew Bogue. This he does very well; his personality is a true characterization of evil especially after considering the handle bar moustache he sports and twirls about.
In the opening scene, after terrorizing the good people of Rose Creek, he goes on to burn
down their church. The camera shot pictures him coming through on a stallion looking like the devil riding out of hell. Sarsgaard plays this role so well that the audience would wonder why he does not play the lead character.
On the opposite end of Bogue’s morality, we meet Sam Chisholm, a man of justice, a bounty hunter and Bogue’s arch nemesis, the man hired by Emma Cullen, wife of Bogue’s earlier victim. We are introduced to Chisholm dressed in all black, riding a black horse.
This role sees Denzel Washington play a square-jawed and silent personality. This role may have been better played by someone else, as Denzel is just not the type to stay dull in a movie. His fans and audience relate with him better as a tough guy with natural leadership abilities that was hidden under the square-jawed façade reducing the credibility of Fuqua’s movie.
Chisholm puts together a team of six men, including himself to serve as Rose Creek’s defence against Bogue and his hoard. The first recruit is Faraday, the drunken Irish man played by Chris Pratt. Joined in this defense team put together by Chisholm is the PTSD-plagued Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his main man Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), who is a quick and vicious blade handler.