Director Antoine Fuqua and actor Denzel Washington first worked together on the acclaimed David Ayer-scripted crime drama/thriller Training Day in 2001, netting an Oscar for Washington in the process. The duo reunited thirteen years later for the 1980s TV show-based movie reboot, The Equalizer; less of a critical hit than Training Day itself, but a mostly well-received genre movie and box office hit regardless. Fortunately, fans of the Fuqua/Washington pairing have only had to wait two years for their third collaboration: The Magnificent Seven.
The Magnificent Seven (2016) was scripted by Richard Wenk (The Equalizer) and Nic Pizzolatto (the creator of True Detective), based on director John Sturges' 1960 western of the same name - itself, a western re-imagining of Akira Kurosawa's classic 1954 Samurai adventure, Seven Samurai. Some major details have been changed from the 1960 version, yet the general premise for Fuqua's Magnificent Seven is mostly the same: seven warriors of the Old West assemble to protect a village from a nasty gang of criminals.
Playing the eponymous "seven" are Washington, along with Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Byung-hun Lee (Terminator: Genisys), Vincent D'Onofrio (Jurassic World), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), Martin Sensmeier (Lillin's Blood) and Fuqua's Training Day and Brooklyn's Finest collaborator, Ethan Hawke. The Magnificent Seven premieres in theaters later this month (at the time of writing this), but the first wave of reviews are already online, following the movie's showing at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
Read on for SPOILER-FREE excerpts from a number of the first reviews for The Magnificent Seven to hit the 'Net:
Variety - Owen Gleiberman
The cheeky but square, dutifully manufactured, ultimately uninspired remake of “The Magnificent Seven"... points to a deeper reason why remakes often don’t pan out: The appeal of the original tends to be rooted in the way it expresses something of its era, so trying to recapture what made it winning is a fool’s game. You can reassemble the same plot and characters; what’s tricky is reigniting the material’s inner spark... Yet if there’s a so-what? quality to it all, Antoine Fuqua’s “Magnificent Seven” is still a reasonably engaging movie for its first hour or so...
Joblo - Chris Bumbray
The finished film is rock-solid, thanks to the above-average craftsmanship of director Antoine Fuqua (as solid a mainstream director as they come) and the always-towering charisma of star Denzel Washington. While not exactly “THE EQUALIZER in the Old West”, the two movies have the same philosophy, being that the strong must protect the weak... While THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is unabashedly in the blockbuster mode, as always Fuqua and Washington give it that little push that makes it a cut above-average, and had this been a summer release many would have called it one of the season’s best studio movies.
TheWrap - Robert Abele
A handsomely made if lackluster riff on John Sturges’ epic about desperados hired to save threatened villagers, it won’t challenge the original’s supremacy as a big-cast entertainment with a wry, redemptive sense of humor. But it can certainly lay claim to the same problem as that previous version: What shallow fun there is doesn’t survive the final shootout; in this instance, it’s just one more death knell for the crisply made action sequence.
Den of Geek - Edward Douglas
The Magnificent Seven serves as further evidence of how Antoine Fuqua has improved as a filmmaker since making Brooklyn’s Finest in 2009, delving into different genres and mastering them all. Any trepidations about the film’s slow pace are more than made up for with the final battle. Even so, when we’re talking about a genre in which filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Ti West are doing such unique and original things like last year’s The Hateful Eight and the upcoming In a Valley of Violence, Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven seems too steeped in tradition, which at times, makes it feel like old hat.
IndieWire - David Ehrlich
It would be hard to mess up a remake of “The Magnificent Seven,” but it might be even harder to remake it in a way that allows the premise of John Sturges’ iconic Western — itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” — to feel newly relevant... This year’s version doesn’t have the benefit of such an obvious paradigm shift... And yet, despite being directed by the singularly bland Antoine Fuqua (whose post-“Training Day” filmography could double as a list of the millennium’s most forgettable action movies) and co-written by suffocatingly dour “True Detective” mastermind Nic Pizzolatto, “The Magnificent Seven” 2016 is almost as fun as it is familiar. More surprising still, it’s as timely a blockbuster as they come.
THR - Todd McCarthy
The main difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature on which it is based is that, in this one, the three men left standing at the end aren't all white guys... Other than the revisionist casting, however, nothing particularly original or fresh has been injected into this competently made, violent but uningratiating remake of the star-studded John Sturges Western, which itself was a redo of Akira Kurosawa's imperishable 1954 classic, Seven Samurai. This efficient but uninspired third teaming of Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua looks to be a solid box-office performer upon late September release.
Cinemablend - Sean O'Connell
Basically, with Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven, you get exactly what you paid for, but many of us have paid for it at least two times before. This is a meat and potatoes Western, with two ladles of gravy poured over the top to fill in the narrative cracks. Its macho ensemble isn't trying to reinvent the wagon wheel. They just aim to retell a recognizable, infamous and forceful vengeance tale. And to a certain extent, they have succeeded.
Uproxx - Mike Ryan
My gosh, this movie is so simple... There’s a bad guy; then the slightly less bad guys team up to defeat the “badder” guy; The Big Fight happens. Most big movies today have so much plot. Where do all these contrived plots come from?... All we want out of a movie like this are good characters and a simple story. And, yes, some good one-liners. Well, here it is. And you can hate or love True Detective‘s Nic Pizzolatto all you want (who co-wrote the script with Richard Wenk), but this does feel like a concise vision. The Magnificent Seven is a shoot ‘em up Western. What you see is pretty much what you’re going to get. But, sometimes, that’s all a buckin’ desperado really wants.
So far, there's certainly some variation in terms of how much mileage critics are getting from The Magnificent Seven's shoot-em-up western entertainment. However, when it comes to the overall critical impression so far, most everyone seems to agree that there is fun to be had in the simplicity of Fuqua's take on the western genre. How much fun there is to be had is where critics seem to vary; though, most every critic has singled out Fuqua's well-proven ability to put together a solid action sequence as being one of the film's strengths, along with the collective screen charisma of its talented cast.
Fuqua has carved out a comfortable niche for himself as a B-movie filmmaker over the past few years especially, delivering crowd-pleasing commercial genre films in Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer. The Magnificent Seven is expected to join the growing list of hit action/thrillers that Fuqua has been adding to his belt of late, with most box office predictions pointing towards a solid opening weekend take - and Fandango's users likewise singling out the western as one of their most anticipated releases of Fall 2016. It might not be the most popular or the most memorable offering of the fall, but a number of critics appear to agree: The Magnificent Seven is, in many ways, a better summer film than a number of this year's actual summer tentpole releases.
You can check out the trailer for The Magnificent Seven, below:
The Magnificent Seven opens in U.S. theaters on September 23rd, 2016.
Source: Various (see above)