November 3rd, 2021
MOVIE: THE HARDER THEY FALL
STARRING: JONATHAN MAJORS, IDRIS ELBA, ZAZIE BEETZ, REGINA KING, LAKEITH STANFIELD, DELROY LINDO
DIRECTED BY: JEYMES SAMUEL
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
The praise I have for The Harder They Fall comes from a myriad of angles. The cast, the soundtrack, the cinematography, the sets, and don’t forget about how cool it is. I would argue that director Jeymes Samuel has made one of the coolest movies in the past ten years, about two gangs of outlaws, set in the town of Redwood, where one group is robbing the crew of another crew, all to get revenge, which builds to a big shoot-out in the wild wild west. The Harder They Fall is a western with style, a western with muscle, and a western unlike anything I have seen before.
The story begins in the past, where a father and mother are murdered in front of their son, done by a vigilante named Rufus Buck (Idris Elba). The boy is left with a cross carved into his forehead and grows up to be Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), the leader of his own gang of fast guns and wild cowboys. His entire life, Nat has been focused on the goal of getting his revenge on Rufus Buck for the murder of his parents, and unfortunately he hasn’t been able to inflict any pain because Rufus has been in prison for most of his adult life. Now the word is that Rufus is getting out, with the help of his old gang, including fierce business partner Trudy Smith (Regina King) and wild gunslinger Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield). The plan is to put Rufus back in charge, giving Nat an opportunity to get his justice, rightfully take down the man that left a mark on him from the start.
I don’t want to minimise how excellent the supporting cast of The Harder They Fall is, but the names on the marquee here are Majors and Elba. The two acting giants deliver stellar work, where Majors carries himself as a king of cool, slight with a smile, and charismatic with his love interest Mary Fields (Zazie Beetz- also all kinds of awesome). He enters a saloon with the swagger of Charles Bronson in Once Upon A Time in the West and the cool factor of a Paul Newman. Elba has the hulking stature of a new kind of Rooster Cogburn, with a sinister side like a country western mobster. Elba’s entrance when Trudy, Bill, and crew break him out on a transport train, is equal to the entrance of a WWE wrestler. Calculated, cool, built up, and explosive with his big reveal.
The screenplay is written by Samuel and Boaz Yakin, which is simple in structure, but filled to the brim with style. The soundtrack is filled with original tracks from Kid Cudi, Jay-Z, and CeeLo Green, all songs bringing a current attitude that only makes the action cooler. The direction from Samuel is equally worthy of praise, managing his use of slow motion to create the mood, dialogue between his characters which is both proselytising monologues and cool character depth. It’s clear that Samuel is aware of exactly how to use his supporting cast, from Edi Gathegi’s sharpshooter, RJ Cyler as a young gunslinger that runs his mouth too much, and Delroy Lindo as the veteran sheriff. For a western with modern twist, behind the gloss and the attitude, it knows exactly how to do the genre right.
It’s not that The Harder They Fall is lacking in depth either, where the relationships between characters subtly become complex with each moment; It develops methodically where Nat must choose between protecting the women he loves, finding out if revenge is worth it, and building to the complex thrills of an old west shootout where anything can happen. The Harder They Fall is just flat out entertaining from start to finish, looks fantastic on any screen, and has one of the best ensembles that a movie has had all year. The modern western is back and this time it just hits harder.
THE HARDER THEY FALL ARRIVES IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON NETFLIX NOVEMBER 3RD, 2021.
Written by: Leo Brady