It's high noon.
I don't know why it is, but I've never been able to fall in love with Westerns like many other people have. Westerns are a rarity in today's film landscape, but back in the day, Westerns were a force to be reckoned with. Westerns were the go to action movies with simplified morals, heroics, high stakes action, and soaring music that anyone could admire. True Grit, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Searchers, and Tombstone were all fantastic movies in their own rights and are not only called the best Westerns, but some of them many would even consider being some of the best movies ever made.
As for me, I tend to think that most Westerns are too simple. Enjoyable and a hell of a good time, but simple. Back in the 60's and 70's, it made sense to have simple Westerns that anyone, especially children, could relate to. A hero shows up into town, confronts corrupt businessmen, lawmen, and criminals, saves the girl with style and grace, then goes riding off into the sunset without staying around for thanks. Those kinds of movies preached good values at the time and depending on how you want to look at it, grossly simplified genuine human confrontation and reasoning and made all characters either good or bad with no middle ground. I'm just more interested in watching the grey area than I am watching the black and white.
Thankfully, The Magnificent Seven is a damned fine movie that tries to be exactly like Westerns from the old day. Simple, but still a ton of fun.
In the town of Rose Creek, a corrupt business man named Bartholomew Bogue has ruthlessly taken over the town and its gold mines. In a bid to gain complete control of the mines, he orders everyone in the town to leave in three weeks or else he'll slaughter everyone in the town. To prove his point, he kills a couple of people, burns down a church, and makes a lot of God and capitalism comparisons because he can. One of the victim's wife, Emma, goes out and sells all of her possession to hire a bounty hunter named Sam Chisolm to save the town. He agrees and gathers a group of seven cowboys, trackers, shooters, and everything in between to go to Rose Creek and prepare it for Bogue's invasion.
And... that's it. I literally summed up the entire movie from beginning to end. The Magnificent Seven is not a movie that's interested in telling you a story. It takes about a half hour for Chisolm, played by Denzel Washington, to assemble the group and spend time developing each of them. Good call, because each member of the Magnificent Seven are interesting, likeable, funny, and have some great banter and one-liners between them.
You have Chris Pratt as a gambling cowboy, which is what every Chris Pratt role should be from now on, who steals the show in every scene he's in. He does magic tricks, scares the crap out of people, and has one of the most badass and coolest scenes I've seen in a movie all year involving a horse chase and dynamite. I didn't expect to like him as much as I did, but hot damn did he deliver. Vincent D'Onofrio played a extremely devout Indian tracker whose first entrance is literally storming into shot, throwing a tomahawk into someone's chest, then beat another person with the butt of his gun. What's even better is that whenever he talks, he's so soft spoken and polite, discouraging others from being rude all while preaching Bible verses. It's comic gold, and D'Onofrio delivers.
It's interesting to see that the performances work as well as they do because the majority of the characters don't have much meat to them. Of the core seven, only two are truly developed into people, and that's Chisolm and the sharpshooter of the group, Goodnight. Both carry backstory and have arcs that have them come to terms with their actions and keeps them in Rose Creek for a very good reason. Chisolm has a grudge to settle and Goodnight has PTSD, but both are brought up in due time over the course of the film and always kept me engaged whenever the two men were present. I wish that we got more clearer details about what exactly happened to Goodnight in the first place, but we know very well what happened to Chisolm, and it isn't pretty.
But for the rest of the characters, they're exactly that; characters. Pratt is solid comic relief with an edge, the Indian member of the group is defined just by his ethnicity, D'Onofio is the giant evangellical, the Mexican is exactly that, and the Assassin is silent with a fondness for knives. That's all we really get from these guys, which is fine since the focus on the movie is about defending the two from Bogue, but the movie still tries to create some backstory for them, yet not really go into any finer details about them. D'Onofrio starts to talk about his dead wife, but after a few seconds everyone just laughs it off and continues on with drinking.
I don't know how I really feel about it because at the end of the day, this is a movie where we're meant to relate to them based on their personalities, but some of their personalities tie into their backstories. Goodnight and the Assassin work together because the Assassin is Asian, so Goodnight offers to help him navigate through the "white man's world". We know they're a team and we know that the Assassin is someone you don't want to mess with, but was he dangerous when he got into the country? Did the wild west make him an assassin? Hell, was he always an assassin? These are questions that normally shouldn't come up, but they do for some reason because we get drip fed some valuable info, but not enough to satisfy our needs.
That being said, we don't really need to know everyone's life secrets to enjoy this movie. The Magnificent Seven is actually closely related to The Avengers in that regard. They're both big action movies that involve a ragtag team of heroes coming together to fight a common enemy with an army to save a town/city from them. Each hero does have a personality, but we don't need to know how they work in order to enjoy the dialogue, we just need to know how they think about each other and react to one another. When you look at it like that, then The Magnificent Seven is remarkable insomuch as Marvel had 5 movies to establish their heroes while Seven had about an hour to do that.
I walked out of The Magnificent Seven fairly surprised at how solid of an action movie it was. It's a downright fun movie with some funny bits of dialogue, scenes, and interactions. If I had to groan at anything, it would be that after they arrive at Rose Creek there's a solid half hour dedicated to them talking to each other and training the town's people for the upcoming war against Bogue. It drags for a bit longer than I thought it would and nothing of interest happens besides learning about Goodnight's past and where his PTSD came from. Still, the finale makes up for the lull in action with a solid bang.
It's actually ind of funny that this movie came out in September, which is usually one of the deadest months of the year for new releases. Hell, this would have probably been one of the better action blockbusters of the year if it came out in the summer, but that's neither here nor there. What does matter is that The Magnificent Seven is a fun movie with a great cast and even more likable characters. There's literally nothing else to watch this month, so you could do A LOT worse. I heard there's a new Madea movie on the horizon, so consider this a revelation from heaven.