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Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven lives up to its name

Welcome to the wild, wild West, where the rule of law is dictated by the man with the biggest gun, the biggest wallet and the biggest army. For the good people of Rose Creek, this man is Bartholomew Bogue, a ruthless, savage robber-baron hell-bent on driving them from their land.

Anyone who stands in Bogue’s way is quickly cut down. Stopping him and his limitless band of gunmen will take something miraculous. Something unbelievable. Something magnificent.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, The Magnificent Seven is the tale of a ragtag group of would-be heroes who gradually unite to inspire and save the innocent from a villain no one person can topple alone. Realistically, these heroes should not be able to work together—there’s a Mexican outlaw, a Confederate sharpshooter, an insane fur trapper, an assassin from the Orient, a drunken gambler, an outcast Comanche, and, to top it all off, a black bounty hunter.

This team is a powder keg ready to explode, but it’s the only hope Rose Creek has.

Denzel Washington leads this Western Suicide Squad with the bravado and roguish swagger of a cinematic legend. Every word he says carries weight, and I defy you to take your eyes off him when he charges into battle.

Chris Pratt lends his trademark wiseguy wit to the team, and Ethan Hawke’s shell-shocked gunslinger is fascinating to watch. Haley Bennett is fantastic as the emotional center. Vincent D’Onofrio acts gloriously over-the-top in his role, while Byung-hun Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo work wonders as stoic warriors. And don’t get me started on Peter Sarsgaard as the endlessly slimy villain.

Every actor disappears into their role with relish, and their impeccable chemistry is the engine of the movie. Each character has a unique relationship with one another, making every scene and every conversation utterly entertaining. The screenplay by Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto had a lot going against it, but sharp writing and character development stick the landing.

Indeed, many are already aboard the Mag Seven hate train purely because it is a remake of the 1960 Western starring Steve McQueen, which was, in turn, a reimaging of the 1954 masterwork from Akria Kurosawa, Seven Samurai. This distaste is entirely unwarranted, and was so from the beginning.

Terrible remakes like Ben-Hur and Clash of the Titans have left a bad taste in audiences’ mouths, and for good reason. Rebooting concepts like this film does is not a necessarily bad idea—I’m excited for the upcoming Jumanji and Clue films because these are concepts, not plots.

A film like Mag Seven can be continually rewritten with new characters and scenarios, as it was here. Sure, it would have been interesting for the concept to be reimagined once again, perhaps focusing on urban residents defending their neighborhood or elite soldiers assisting a foreign village. Still, this remake works because of its new characters and fantastic direction.

After a lackluster summer movie season, Magnificent Seven delivers the white-knuckled entertainment that was sorely lacking. Leaving the theater, I was simultaneously energized and breathless from the roller coaster I had just disembarked. Upon reminiscing, however, I realized that the film was far more conservative than I’d thought—there were only two action scenes. Granted, they were sprawling and truly epic, but I found the tense dramatic moments just as absorbing and memorable.

Combining clever writing, genuine character moments and some of the greatest action sequences of the year, The Magnificent Seven breaks the remake mold, producing an exciting blockbuster that is fun, engaging and, for lack of a better word, magnificent.

The Magnificent Seven opens in theaters this Friday and is rated PG-13 for intense action and language.

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