The Harder They Fall is a revisionist western with Black or African American cowboys signed by director James Samuel and screenwriter Boaz Yakin. Although the events are fictional, the characters in this film are based on real cowboys and outlaws from the Wild West in the 19th century. The film premiered at the London Film Festival and after a short cinema distribution arrived on Netflix servers on November 3rd in the United States. He attracted a lot of attention because of his impressive acting ensemble composed exclusively of Black or African American actors and actresses.
The plot of the film follows the outlaw Neta Lava (Jonathan Majors), who is left without parents in the prologue at the beginning of the film. He dedicated his life to revenge, and only Rufus Bak (Idris Elba), who is imprisoned in the Juma prison, escapes him. After learning that Rufus has been released from prison and is returning to his hometown of Redwood, Net gathers his team to finally take revenge on him. On his side are his closest associates Billy Pickett, ex-girlfriend Mary (Zazi Bitz), fast Jimmy and law enforcement officer Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo), while Rufus leads a dangerous gang that includes the evil Trudy Smith (Regina King) and the revolver Cherokee Bill ( Lakit Stanfield).
The Harder They Fall review, plot
The Harder They Fall begins with the words that these people existed and after watching it I was convinced that it was true – Net was a freed slave who became a famous cowboy, Bass Reeves was the first Black or African American sheriff to arrest thousands of outlaws, while Rufus Bak’s gang really robbed and killed in the late nineteenth century. Probably all the characters in the film are the product of old western legends who were ignored in movies or history books, but here they were given the opportunity to convincingly present themselves as heroes, villains or people balancing in a morally gray zone between good and bad.
The plot consists of typical genre, routine elements of the story that include revenge, taking money from the wrong people, escaping from prison and good old-fashioned gunfire. I would say that all the recognizable elements of the story work in favor of the film in order to dedicate the script to the characters who are numerous. Each of them is likable / charismatic in their own way and no character felt like a surplus in the film. Contrary to my expectations, the fact that all the characters are dark-skinned did not affect the story itself at all. The reason for that is that they are first of all different, and then also because they convincingly balance on the border of good and evil, that is, repulsion and sympathy.
The author surprised me with a strong sense of visual style that reminded me of Tarantino – he pays homage to the genre’s famous clichés (say, he uses close-ups of his eyes), but he also offers us plenty of stylized violence combined with contemporary music. Uses dynamic camera movements and modern editing rhythms. Everything is fast and energetic, with a lot of tense scenes and unexpected humor, while the shooting scenes are pretty bloody. As in Tarantino’s films, there is nothing preaching or politically correct here either, which is a big plus.
The film brings nothing new except that the characters are of a different race compared to a typical western, but I have to admit that it entertained me fine. The cast contributes to a positive impression and the casting is done perfectly, everyone is convincing in their role. The strongest impression is objectively left by the frightening Idris Elba, while subjectively it is Zazi Bitz who, despite her sympathetic appearance, represents an unwavering presence that skillfully handles weapons. Any objections to the film can be reduced to too long a duration of 140 minutes and the fact that in the sea of supporting characters, none of them stands out as the traditional main character.
The Harder They Fall is a western with Black or African American cowboys that combines black exploitation and spaghetti westerns from the seventies with contemporary music and recording techniques an interesting mix of styles with a lot of Tarantino energy that I liked much more than I expected you can watch it elusively on Netflix. Final rating: 7/10
The Harder They Fall movie cast and characters
- Jonathan Majors as Nat Love
- Chase Dillon as young Nat Love
- Idris Elba as Rufus Buck
- Zazie Beetz as Stagecoach Mary
- Regina King as Trudy Smith
- Delroy Lindo as Bass Reeves
- Lakeith Stanfield as Cherokee Bill
- RJ Cyler as Jim Beckwourth
- Danielle Deadwyler as Cuffee
- Edi Gathegi as Bill Pickett
- Deon Cole as Wiley Escoe
- Damon Wayans Jr. as Monroe Grimes
- DeWanda Wise as Eleanor Love
- Julio Cesar Cedillo as Cortez