I am not sure The Magnificent Seven needed a remake, but I expected a film with such a stacked cast, capable director and plenty of action to be anything but boring. Unfortunately, this updated Western does bore, and offers little more than stock characters, long-winded drama and generic shoot-outs during its overstuffed 133-minute running time. The film follows a storyline similar to that of the original and its inspiration, Seven Samurai, and Antoine Fuqua struggles to utilize his cast effectively. Frequent collaborator Denzel Washington plays warrant officer Sam Chisholm, who accepts the proposal of a young widow, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), to protect her town from a vicious industrialist, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D'Onofrio saddle up alongside Washington, but The Magnificent Seven is decidedly average.
If nothing else, Fuqua's remake gets the scenery right. The film certainly looks and feels like a classic Western, from the costumes to the sets to the landscape. The bounty is land this go-round rather than crops and supplies. Bogue offers the residents of mining town Rose Creek pennies on the dollar for their homes and land, and, after being rebuked, has a group of locals, including Cullen's husband, Matthew (Matt Bomer), gunned down in cold blood. He promises to return to kill the rest if they do not leave town, so Emma Cullen searches for a savior. She finds it in Chisholm, who first recruits gambler and skilled marksman Josh Faraday (Pratt), then moves on to tracker Jack Horne (D'Onofrio), Confederate veteran and sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Hawke), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), East Asian assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche warrior. The seven then prepare to face the well-armed and heavily guarded Bogue.
The film's adherence to genre tropes is both admirable and irritating. This remake absolutely respects its roots, but is so dedicated to honoring its predecessors that it spins its wheels in the dust. I was not expecting this Western to have a shocking, convoluted plot, but I was hoping Fuqua would liven up the genre a bit. Instead of thrilling, the extended action bits grow repetitive, and The Magnificent Seven often feels like it is running down a Western checklist instead of providing a natural, compelling narrative. Sarsgaard is suitably slimy as the antagonist, but spends large portions of the film off screen. You may be forgiven if you forget what, exactly, the seven are preparing for, as the middle of the film slows to a crawl. Fuqua tries to give the men some background and motivation, but never really does so. D'Onofrio's Horne becomes the most compelling character, eliciting some genuine emotion, as the film glosses over the histories of Chisholm and Faraday.
The original The Magnificent Seven is adventurous and exciting, and Seven Samurai is a memorable classic. I did not feel much of this excitement during the 2016 The Magnificent Seven. This remake also makes black and white what the others left grey. The seven are bad men fighting even worse men, but Fuqua's film turns them into easily digestible heroes. I wish he had allowed a bit more moral ambiguity, but this is the curse of the studio Western. Even though I cared little who lived or died, Fuqua does stage one strong action sequence involving a Gatling gun toward the finale. This gives the film a desperately needed spark of energy, and allows Pratt to display some of his trademark charm. Unfortunately, it is too little, too late. Gorgeously photographed but largely hollow, The Magnificent Seven is a disappointment.
Sony provides a clean 2.39:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer from this 35 mm-sourced film, though it's not without issue. First, the good: Fine-object detail is fantastic, from intimate facial details to the textures of the period-appropriate sets. Wide shots are impressively deep and gorgeously sharp. The film's fine layer of grain is natural and without digital tinkering. Colors are boldly saturated and push a bit hot, which is likely the film's intended look. I noticed no problems with aliasing or compression artifacts. My main issue with the image is black crush. This has been a problem for Sony recently, but I hoped they'd gotten their mastering process tuned. Here, blacks are extremely inky, but there are many scenes when shadow detail is completely absent due to crush. Some of this is related to the outdoor photography, but the image is simply too dark in spots. This causes an otherwise five-star transfer to receive only four.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is suitably rambunctious, with excellent surround action and subwoofer support. Dialogue is crystal clear and balanced appropriately with effects and score. Speaking of effects, there are some excellent surround effects during the film's numerous action sequences. When the Gatling gun starts firing, the subwoofer goes nuts. Gunfire whizzes across the sound field, and ambient effects, like horse clatter and environmental noise, surround the viewer. A Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital dub is available, as are English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release includes the Blu-ray and an UltraViolet HD digital copy. The disc is packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a textured slipcover. The following extras are included: Vengeance Mode (2:53:07/HD) - Now this is something we haven't seen in awhile. Recalling Warner Brothers' Maximum Movie Mode, this feature is a full-length commentary and documentary that plays along with the film. The action occasionally cuts away to just behind-the-scenes footage (hence the longer running time), and this offers excellent on-set footage and interviews. You also get Deleted Scenes (7:29 total/HD); The Seven (8:36/HD), about the lead actors; Directing the Seven (5:03/HD), about Fuqua; The Taking of Rose Creek (5:16/HD), about the action sequence set in the mining town; Rogue Bogue (5:26/HD), which focuses on the villain; Gunslingers (4:55/HD), which looks at the weapons and action training; and Magnificent Music (4:10/HD), about James Horner's score.
Although Antoine Fuqua's remake of The Magnificent Seven is nicely lensed and full of excellent actors, the film is a disappointment. The drama is too tidy, and this remake lacks the rogue sensibilities of its predecessors. Rent It if you are curious and enjoy Westerns. Fans will at least be pleased that this Blu-ray offers excellent supplements and a largely impressive technical presentation.