- Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Idris Elba, LaKeith Stanfield
- Written by
- Jeymes Samuel, Boaz Yakin
- Directed by
- Jeymes Samuel
- Runtime 2h 19min
- Release Date November 3rd ,2021
I feel the need to preface this review with the fact that I love the Western as a genre. Due to that fact I tend to give them a bit more leeway than say Horror or Sci-Fi. While I love the classics like The Searchers I still yearly watch films like Silverado. Even non-traditional stuff films from the past decade like Rango, Cowboys & Aliens, Bone Tomahawk and even The Ballad of Buster Scruggs tend to hit me in the right way. I can always find something to appreciate about them. But my favorites seem to be when they shift ever so slightly from the norm, like what Tarantino has done with his last two Westerns or in Hell or High Water. Which is a film set in modern time but is without a doubt a genuine Western. Along with films like the ones mentioned above there is always a chunk of tales from the old west that are released and forgotten every year on direct to streaming. So with all that being said, you need to believe me when I say that The Harder They Fall is a damn good Western!
The Nat Love Gang led by Love (Jonathan Majors) make it point not to rob banks. Instead, they rob bank-robbers as they are making their getaway. As a duo of Love Gang: fast-talking quick-draw Jim Beckworth (RJ Cyler) and sure-shot Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) are robbing and killing the last of Red Hood Gang, they discover information that they need to get back to their leader Nat. It seems just when Nat Love has believed his life long quest for revenge is over, discovers that the last man on his list: Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) has been released from prison with help of his gang including Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield). So instead of settling down with his true love Mary Fields (Zazie Beetz) Nat rejoins his crew and followed by relentless Marshal Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo) who is also on the trail of Buck as they head for a standoff in the town of Redwood.
Director Jeymes Samuel turns in a hyper-stylized and kinetic film that would fit right at home with a lot of modern action films. However this is a Western, which pushed his style to a whole other level. Even the opening credit sequence has a The Wild Wild West feel to it, and I’m not talking about the film, I mean the show which at its time was not a typical Western either. The dialogue by Samuel and veteran Boaz Yakin is playful and has no problem shifting from classic to modern speak and still making it all seem natural. All the actors bring their own flair with their performances like Regina King’s accent, Idris Elba using his face more than his words, and my favorite LaKeith Stanfield who commands the screen every single time he speaks, so much so I want to see a whole movie about Cherokee Bill. And as with every role, Jonathan Majors is proving time and again that he is a leading man. But the breakout star is Danielle Deadwyler as Cuffee who teeters the line of naive and hardcore making both believable.
There are a few moments that pull you out of the narrative, but when you see that dirt and dust kick up as some one hits the ground after being shot three times, you are right back in. The filmmakers know the troupes and fully display them here but still utilize contemporary techniques all showing their true love of the genre. By the time we reach the inevitable showdown/shootout it lives up to the expectation as we are thrown from fisticuffs to gun-duels to intense revelations all landing with the weight of a sure to be classic Western.