THE HARDER THEY FALL (NETFLIX) (2021)
SYNOPSIS: Gunning for revenge, outlaw Nat Love saddles up with his gang to take down enemy Rufus Buck, a ruthless crime boss who just got sprung from prison.
A British musician doing an American western with a notable Black cast? That’s something you definitely need to watch on Netflix this month.
With the help of veteran screenwriter Boaz Yakin, Jeymes Samuel wrote and directed The Harder They Fall, an awfully familiar story of revenge and Wild West fun. The movie begins with a ruthless outlaw, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) gunning down a pastor and his wife leaving their only son, Nat Love scarred but alive.
Years later, Love (Jonathan Majors) grows up to be an outlaw as well. As the movie progresses, we learnt that Love and his gang members have been tracking down and killing his parents’ murderers except Buck who is now being transported to a prison on a moving train. When Buck escaped with the help from his loyal followers, Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (Lakeith Stanfield), Love vows to take down Buck together with his love interest, Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz) and Marshal Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo).
Not to undermine Samuel’s directorial debut, The Harder They Fall is quite a mixed bag. The most questionable of all is the narrative and story flow which explained why it took over two hours to culminate. The movie is filled with unnecessary plot development such as Stagecoach Mary voluntarily offering to do business with Buck. Hello? Isn’t Buck a smart ruthless outlaw? What about his right hand woman, Trudy who probably see through your trick when you first stepped into Redwood?
And in a short while later, Love is forced to rob a bank owned by white folks in order to rescue Stagecoach Mary out of the hands of Buck. You can’t deny it’s a clever way to mock at white supremacist but it certainly kills the momentum by a lot. We are pretty sure most audiences are waiting to relish at the chance to catch Jonathan Majors facing off Idris Elba but we are afraid that got to wait. Storytelling apparently needs to come first before the final showdown.
To Samuel’s credit, there’s enough shoot-em-up, bloody brawls and stagecoach robberies to justify as a good old Western. Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr also make sure that all the gorgeous scenes of horse riding are wonderfully captured onscreen. Even the production design on the whole looks fantastic on the small screen. Samuel frequently throws in some Tarantino-style sleekness, Black swagger into it and peppering it with an awesome soundtrack mostly written by Samuel himself. In addition, the fine performances of the ensemble cast is a plus point as well.
Growing up on westerns that featured seemingly all white actors (Will Smith in the disastrous Wild Wild West don’t count I’m afraid), The Harder They Fall makes for a fresh change of scenery despite the all-too predictable plotting. When you see stars liked Idris Elba and Jonathan Majors strutting in cool cowboy outfits and gunslinging, you know it’s been a long time since the days of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne.
Review by Linus Tee