Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars
Bottom Line: A movie with some charm but pales in comparison to the 1960 version. A little long but still better than “Seven Samurai” in that it didn’t waste an hour showing a peasant crying in a barn. “But look at Kurosawa’s masterful use of lighting and shadow”, blah blah blah.
I can really sum up this review by just saying go see the 1960 version of the movie and be done with it. But that might just be nostalgia talking so a reviewing I shall go.
When looking for when the original movie was released, I discovered that there was also a TV series with the same premise back in 1998-2000. So yeah, this ground has been covered quite extensively. And there’s good reason for that. It’s a compelling story filled with a motley bunch of do-gooders and over the top bad guys and underdogs who persevere despite adversity. Really, though, it’s the motley bunch of do-gooders that we’re here to see. 2016 doesn’t disappoint in that respect. The cast of misfits, led by Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, are entertaining if a little flat around the edges. The villain, played by Peter Sarsgaard, is sufficiently over the top without being cartoonish.
The biggest issue with this movie, and maybe the original suffered from it as well but I do not recall, is one of motivation. Why are these seven people helping these poor villagers in what is almost certainly a suicide mission? The only two that really make solid sense are Chisolm’s (Denzel Washington), pride and revenge, and Jack Horn’s (Vincent D’Onofrio), piety and righteousness. Jack Horn is probably the best character in the film and despite little face time, he manages to tell a complete story. The rest vary from “to get my horse back” to “I am a Comanche” to “I’m with him”. More depth here would have been much appreciated and it is the one thing I appreciated about Kurosawa’s original.
My one other major complaint is how lazy the action was. The final fight was kind of an underpants gnome version of a plan. We’ll put almost everyone out in front of the town and somehow this will lead the bandits into the middle of town where we can pick them off. This abhorrent plan could be forgivable if it led to some cool, if useless, action sequences, but there was not much to really see.
Like I said at the beginning, just go see the 1960 version if you’ve never seen it. Barring that, just wait for this movie to appear on your favorite streaming service. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s been done before and better and you have better things to do with your life.
Oh, and funny story. For the longest time I thought Jack Horne was played by the guy that played Hodor on “Game of Thrones”.