REVIEW: The Harder They Fall Is A New Age Western With A Lot Of Style
The Western genre is one that’s seen a lot of mileage since the beginning of film. Legendary directors like Sergio Leone and Quentin Tarantino made their mark on the genre, and more recently, even Antoine Fuqua has dabbled in this classic category. So for a new filmmaker like Jeymes Samuel to come along and put a brand new spin on this familiar story type, is absolutely refreshing, even if it doesn’t always hit the mark.
But I’ll take a bold attempt over a tried and tested formulaic approach any day. And as I’ll point out in this The Harder They Fall review, boy, are there some amazing choices in this new Western.
So read on for my spoiler-free The Harder They Fall review.
An Anachronistic Western Movie With Never Before Seen Characters
Here’s the selling point of The Harder They Fall; it’s an all-black cast in an all-black story featuring the traditional black and white hats in the Western genre. And it’s genuinely pretty damn awesome! While representation is huge in entertainment these days, The Harder They Fall takes that to new levels with a gun-slinging story that doesn’t put black characters in a setting where they are a slave, servant, or other historically accurate roles. But instead, reimagines a world that’s a bit more modern, where racism still exists and where race still is the biggest dividing factor when it comes to people’s socio-economic situations.
The Harder They Fall does a lot for people of color in roles that they never had the opportunity to play before
And honestly, I love it. Cinema has always had to go the extra step to portray minorities in historically accurate roles in period pieces. This means, that even though Riz Ahmed and Dev Patel are Oscar nominees, as a South Asian, I’ll never really get to root for them as gun-slinging Cowboys. And while the Green Knight brought us a step closer, The Harder They Fall does a lot for people of color in roles that they never had the opportunity to play before. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as I’ll explain in this review of The Harder They Fall.
The Harder They Fall Review Is All Style And Performance
The cast of The Harder They Fall is in a league of their own. The insanely massive all-star cast is pitch-perfect in every aspect. My only complaint for many of them is that I wish we got more. And hopefully, we will. And while Lovecraft Country and his entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Loki was brilliant, this is the movie that should put Jonathan Majors on the map! Majors is the perfect leading man as Nat Love, a boy turned outlaw out for revenge from the man who killed his family. And on his other side is the ruthless villain, Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba. Elba’s quiet brutality is the perfect compliment to Majors’ playful charm. And despite powerhouse performances by both, there are so many more performances to love in The Harder They Fall.
The cast of The Harder They Fall is in a league of their own. The insanely massive all-star cast is pitch-perfect in every aspect.
Part of the Nat Love Gang is Zazie Beetz, who, despite seeing her in both Joker and Deadpool 2, I am absolutely a fan of now. Beetz is not at all the ‘girl’ in a male-dominated story as she gets her own agency and importance, despite a bit of the ‘damsel in distress’ role in the second act. I loved Beetz’s no-nonsense act, and she definitely was consistent with that portrayal all the way to the end.
The woman beside Buck, on the other hand, is the cruel and calculating Trudy Smith, played by Regina King. King has been killing it lately with a stellar performance in The Watchmen and an Oscar-winning role in If Beale Street Could Talk. And she’s no less here, as Buck’s right-hand, in a role where she really gets to flex her chops. Although, given everyone else's prominence in the film, I felt King didn’t get the screen time she really deserved.
And on top of them all, there are so many other players, like Lakeith Stanfield as Cherokee Bill, the quick-draw of the Rufus Buck Gang, and the most elusively intriguing character of the bunch. His counterpart on the Love Gang is RJ Cyler’s Beckworth, a loudmouth and cocky young man claiming to be faster than Bill. We also get the iconic Delroy Lindo himself as the U. S. Marshall on everyone’s case, along with Deon Cole as one of Buck’s former associates.
It’s A Larger Than Life Western Extravaganza
The Harder They Fall is a genuinely great movie. While the story is a little loose at some points, it more than makes up for it with a justified sense of grandeur and style that hasn’t been seen in a Western for a while. The soundtrack is glorious. It’s a mix of largely hip-hop numbers reworked in the frontier setting that elevate the shootouts and provide even more substance to the moments full of swagger and cool. Plus there are still the softer emotional moments that can be gut-wrenching. Elba is the perfect Western villain, while Majors does the rogue with a heart very well.
It’s these core elements of cast performances, creatively technical filmmaking, and one badass soundtrack that makes up for a pretty straightforward story. The Harder They Fall is a must-watch for Western fans, cinephiles, or just audiences looking for a good time. They will not be disappointed.