If we ask you to think about three Western movies that change the film landscape, which ones would pop into your head? We’re pretty sure it would True Grit, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. While there’s nothing wrong with those movies, pretty sure that the Far West doesn’t only consist of heroic white men. That’s exactly what director/co-writer Jeymes Samuel (aka The Bullitts) proves in his stunning directorial debut. With The Harder They Fall, led by a terrific star-studded black cast, he turns the Western genre completely upside down!
The return of the Western genre but not as you know it
A Western revenge story? Yes, that’s how you can describe The Harder They Fall in a nutshell. As a child, Nat Love watched his parents getting murdered by Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), and now, so many years later, he (Jonathan Majors) is looking for the person who killed his parents. Together with his Nat Love Gang, which includes gangmates Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) and Jim Beckworth (RC Cyler) and love interest, Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), he’s out for revenge. After hearing that Buck escaped from prison, their thirst for revenge get even bigger.
However, it won’t be that easy to kill one of the most ruthless killers, especially not when he’s surrounded by the Rufus Buck Gang. While Buck was in prison, his gang was led by Trudy Smith (Regina King) and a kind-of-spokesperson Cherokee Bill (Stanfield), and they absolutely ensured that they upheld Buck’s brutal and bloody reputation. Both gangs go head-to-head, but there can only be one victor, right? So which gang is it going to be?
What stunning on-screen and off-screen talent!
Sure, the storyline might seem a bit simple or straightforward, but writers Boaz Yakin (Aviva) and Samuel still make sure that they never fall back into the stereotypical characters. While the story itself might be fictional, the characters aren’t. At the start of the movie, you get a “These. People. Existed” warning, due to which the violence, tough times and bloodshed make an even greater impact.
It doesn’t matter how much of the story is true; when portraying real-life characters, you must work with a cast that can deliver strong, honest, genuinely-looking and captivating performances. Casting director Victoria Thomas (Django Unchained) clearly understood that assignment as she brought a top-notch cast together in this film. First of all, there’s Majors (Lovecraft Country) as Nat Love, who’s an absolute pleasure to watch! His charms, the intensity of his performance during the brutal scenes and the emotional impact he has during the more touching moments make sure that you watch the movie from start to finish.
Elba (Molly’s Game) absolutely excels in this movie as his performance is a tour-de-force in more than one way! Not only the violent and ruthless side of Buck is being heightened, but you also see that, despite having a rough exterior, Buck is also a man with human feelings. Yes, Elba’s performance is top-notch on both physical and emotional levels, and it’s not hard to see why director Samuel wanted to work with him.
It’s not only the men who deliver stunning acting performances. No, also Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) is phenomenal as Smith. She oozes power, and her bad-ass vibe shines through the entire movie. She can absolutely stand her ground in The Harder They Fall. Beetz (Deadpool 2) is also putting on a great performance that will absolutely leave a big impression. It’s just a shame that she doesn’t get enough screen time. That being said, when you put Beetz and King together in the same scene, you get absolute firework!
The openings scene is one of the most impressive scenes of the movie, and that’s not only because of the terrific performances. No, it’s also because of the extremely captivating and stunning cinematography by Mihai Malaimare Jr. (Jojo Rabbit). He leaves those more neutral colours behind and goes straights for eye-popping ones. The violence is right in your face, and so are the blood red and the pitch-black dark colours. Malaimare Jr certainly knows how to create a mesmerizing spectacle.
Just as in any Western movie, music is of vital importance. However, don’t expect the traditional Western-movie music. In The Harder They Fall, it’s all about “the harder and louder” the better. You get songs from Jay-Z (who’s a producer of this movie), Ms. Lauryn Hill, Kid Cudi and Koffee. Based on those names, you know the music absolutely accompanies the film in the best way possible.
What an outstanding debut
Last month, The Harder They Fall was the openings movie of the BFI Film Festival, and it’s no surprise why. The film is made with such passion for the Western genre and edgy filmmaking, and if you combine that passion with a terrific cast and an extremely creative crew, you know that you’re in for a fantastic ride! The Harder They Fall is available on Netflix, but if you really want to get the action, the adrenaline rush and the powerful acting performance, then try and catch the movie on the big screen.
The Harder They Fall is out now on Netflix and in U.K. cinemas.
Rating: (4 / 5)