Directed by Jeymes Samuel, and starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, RJ Cyler, Delroy Lindo, Danielle Deadwyler, Lakeith Stanfield, and Regina King, The Harder They Fall is a new Western which has just landed on Netflix. The movie tells the story of an outlaw called Nat Love, who sets out on a quest for revenge against the man who murdered his parents.
At the beginning of the movie, Love is a young boy, living with his mother and father. One day there is a knock at the door and in walks Rufus Buck. Buck promptly kills Love’s parents, before using a knife to scar the boy’s forehead.
Years later and having survived the incident, Love has grown up to be an outlaw, who spends his time tracking members of Buck’s gang, in order to exact revenge. However, he has no plans to find Buck, because he knows Buck is locked up in prison serving a life sentence.
But Buck’s stint in jail comes to an abrupt end when he is freed and given a pardon for his past crimes. He then heads to the nearby town of Redwood, and takes it over.
When Love becomes aware of Buck’s newfound freedom, he and his posse travel to the town for a showdown. But exacting revenge is a deadly business, and not everyone will get out of Redwood alive.
The first thing to note about The Harder They Fall is how damn cool this movie is. From the cast and the costuming, through to the sets and use of colour, the whole vibe of this film is slick and playful, and it makes watching The Harder They Fall a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
If you’re not a fan of the Western genre, I recommend you check out this movie. It may change your mind about cowboy pictures, or at the very least give you one Western you might like.
The reason I say this is because The Harder They Fall approaches this genre with fresh eyes and a different perspective. Firstly, it features a predominantly African-American cast, and secondly it brings modern touches to the table, through the use of its soundtrack.
In terms of its cast, this film is loaded with great performances. There’s not a duff turn from anyone in this picture, and the end result is a collection of strong, well-rounded characters.
Leading the film is Jonathan Majors who plays Nat Love. Majors is extremely likeable in this part and he commands the screen at every opportunity.
But although Majors is good, he never over shadows his fellow actors. So, whether it’s Delroy Lindo, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Zazie Beetz, Idris Elba, Regina King, or Lakeith Stanfield, every key player in this ensemble gets to make their mark.
Elba and King in particular are superb pieces of casting. Elba plays the role of chief villain, Rufus Buck with perfection, while King gets to be suitably evil as his right-hand gal, Trudy Smith.
King’s character is so intriguing that if ever this film leads to a sequel – and I really hope it does – I would love to see more from Trudy Smith. This is a character with a lot of potential, who is backed by an actor who knows how to convey this part effortlessly.
With regards to this movie’s soundtrack, I must simply say “wow”. The majority of the music for The Harder They Fall was written by director Jeymes Samuel, and these songs add so much to this movie that I simply can’t undersell them.
This is not the soundtrack of a traditional Western – it is more modern, it is more energetic, and it feels as if it is aimed at a more contemporary audience. And yet, this soundtrack also feels as if it captures the entire mood of the Western genre.
All of the music in this film has been meticulously composed, so that it brings both something new to the screen, while also paying respect to what has come before. It pushes the genre forward in an exciting new direction, but at the same time refuses to let go of the past.
I guarantee, anyone watching this movie will walk away from this picture with only positive comments about this soundtrack. It plays such an important role in this film, and cannot be overlooked.
So, the cast and the music are what make this movie, but how about the story?
Honestly? It’s fine – it’s nothing particularly original, but it works well enough.
As far as the narrative goes, The Harder They Fall doesn’t break any new ground. The story is largely Western 101, and hits all the beats one might expect.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means the film goes through a standard Western plot, complete with a big shoot-out at the climax. Those looking for something a little more imaginative may find themselves a tad underwhelmed by this.
The film also hits a little pacing issue toward the middle of the story, when things slow down a touch. At no point does this change in tempo derail the film, it simply would have benefited from a little more action around the mid-section.
But once the film heads towards its conclusion, it really brings out the big guns. Sure, the shoot-out ending has been done countless times before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a heap of fun to watch.
The highlight of this showdown is a fight sequence which takes place between Zazie Beetz’s character, Stagecoach Mary, and Regina King’s Trudy Smith. This is close combat stuff, it is expertly choreographed, and it creates a nice break from all the shooting.
Although, who am I trying to kid? Seeing Majors and Co. blasting their way through the screen is a sheer delight and I loved every minute of it! The only issue I had was that I liked the heroes and villains equally, so I didn’t really want to see anyone bumped off.
All-in-all, I found much to like in The Harder They Fall. I’m not a huge lover of Westerns (although the genre continues to grow on me), yet I found this to be a great film.
As highlighted, the story is nothing original, but it’s certainly nothing bad either. The costuming, the lighting, and the staging is solid, the aforementioned casting and music is spot-on, and the movie looks outstanding.
Those who love this kind of picture will be in their element. Those new to the genre or who have never found a way into Westerns before, should certainly give it two hours of their time.
The Harder They Fall is good. It’s really good.