THE HARDER THEY FALL (2021) Reviews and overview of Black Western

 

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The Harder They Fall is a 2021 Western film about an outlaw who discovers his enemy is being released from prison; he reunites his gang to seek revenge.

Directed by Jeymes Samuel (They Die by Dawn) from a screenplay co-written with Boaz Yakin. Produced by Shawn Carter, James Lassiter, Lawrence Bender and Jeymes Samuel.

The Overbrook Entertainment-Netflix co-production stars Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, R.J. Cyler, Damon Wayans Jr., Deon Cole with Regina King and Idris Elba.

Plot:

When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being released from prison he rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Those riding with him in this assured, righteously new school Western include his former love Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), his right and left-hand men — hot-tempered Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth (R.J. Cyler)—and a surprising adversary-turned-ally.

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Meanwhile, Rufus Buck has his own fearsome crew, including “Treacherous” Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), and they are not a group that knows how to lose…

Reviews:

“There’s a constant rhythm to every camera shot, as the on-screen action ebbs and flows like it’s following a beat. We whip across desolate towns as shotguns are aimed, the pounding of a gun’s butt pushing us closer and closer into the frame. Where the cameras of the Western once stood as still as their showdown superstars, here they ride on the wind, creating a mesmerising and thrilling feast for the eyes.” Cinerama Film Online

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“Every shot, every scene, every exchange from The Harder They Fall is combat-ready and garishly tensed for violence – and Samuel certainly brings the freaky mayhem, with gruesome relish and high energy. My feeling, though, is that there is a diminishing return on it, and the big reveal at the end is slightly silly and somehow retrospectively discloses that we haven’t really found out enough about Rufus Buck’s backstory.” The Guardian

The Harder They Fall is an exceptional debut by Jeymes Samuel, an unapologetic masterpiece that comes out all guns blazing and rarely misses its target. Full of style, energy, power, and assurance in every frame, this is one film not to be missed.” Jumpcut Online

“[Samuel’s] tackles a genre with such a glorious amount of pizzazz and enthusiasm, keeping the best bits of Westerns whilst ensuring things remain distinct with his own style as well as adding new depth and direction to proceedings […] Boasting some of the best acting, direction, cinematography and action sequences of the year, The Harder They Fall is so fantastically intoxicating, a heady mixture of nostalgia and freshness moulded together to form something quite breathless.” Loud and Clear

” …a very specifically stylized neo-Western using real people in a fictional tale set in an artificial world where brutal violence appears grabbed from comic book frames all set to Reggae and hip-hop inflected genre music.  Sporting a large ensemble of veteran actors, up-and-comers and one impressively working outside his usual comfort zone (‘Blackish’s’ Deon Cole as Redwood City Mayor Wiley Escoe), the film is often funny and very entertaining.” Reeling Reviews

“The movie succeeds as pure spectacle, turning light, color, and motion into sources of pleasure. In a time of increasingly slovenly action filmmaking, it’s a relief to find yourself in the hands of a director who knows what to do with a camera […] Notice how, in the final showdown, the sun is all over the place, and yet always where it needs to be to create an iconic Western image, suitable for framing.” RogerEbert.com

Release:

Following limited theatrical releases in the UK and USA, The Harder They Fall will be streamed on Netflix on November 3, 2021.

Cast and characters:

Chase Dillon … Young Nat (as Chase W. Dillon)
DeWanda Wise … Eleanor Love
Julio Cesar Cedillo … Jesus Cortez
Jonathan Majors … Nat Love
Manny Rubio … Father Esparza
Edi Gathegi … Bill Pickett
Damon Wayans Jr. … Monroe Grimes
Woody McClain … Clyde Grimes
RJ Cyler … Jim Beckworth
Danielle Deadwyler … Cuffee
Torrey B. Lawrence … Saloon Hardcase
Zazie Beetz … Mary Fields
Araxi Lindsey … Tambourine Player
Fatima Robinson … Guitar Player
Regina King … Trudy Smith
G. Mac Brown … Train Driver
LaKeith Stanfield … Cherokee Bill
Jacobi Howard … Angel
Tait Fletcher … Big Man On Train
Dylan Kenin … General Abbott
Idris Elba … Rufus Buck
Delroy Lindo … Bass Reeves
Kevin Phillips … Ben Hodges
Mark Rhino Smith … Carson
Deon Cole … Wiley Escoe
Sanford Kelley … Redwood Farmer
Terrence Clowe … James

Filming locations:

Cerro Pelon Movie Ranch – 5547 Highway 41, Galisteo, New Mexico, USA
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Chama, New Mexico, USA
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Technical details:

130 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital
Aspect ratio: 2.39: 1

Fun facts:

Nat Love was a real cowboy in the Old West and he wrote an autobiography called The Life and Adventures of Nat Love: A True History of Slavery Days (1907).

Teaser:

Trailer:

Critics’ ratings:

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