When an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge in this Western.
If you’ve watched a lot of western movies and you take a lot of your understanding of the time from those movies, as I have, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Old West was a solely white man’s playground. ‘The Harder They Fall’, from first time director Jeymes Samuel, sets out to both educate and entertain on this matter, with an almost entirely black cast helping to bring a fresh perspective to a very familiar genre.
The premise of the film centres on a classic western theme – the quest for revenge. That comes from our protagonist Nat Love, played by Jonathan Majors, who as a boy watched his entire family be slaughtered by Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba. In the present, both lead gangs with formidable henchmen and henchwoman played by the likes of Regina King, Zazie Beetz and Lakeith Stanfield, and as the film progresses they will cross swords, bringing Love closer to Buck and the revenge he craves. Samuel spins a good yarn and the Jay-Z soundtrack makes this feel different to most contemporary westerns, but underneath the style ‘The Harder They Fall’ plays out much as you’d expect. It’s the way the story is told that adds some of the panache to proceedings.
Samuel makes an interesting choice to tell a fictional story whilst using real life people as his characters, which serves a purpose, as some viewers will go and read up on these individuals after watching the movie. It’s a relatively common trait in western storytelling (I’m thinking of the TV series ‘Deadwood’ which fictionalised many elements whilst adhering to the key events from history) and it works well here. ‘The Harder They Fall’ is a stylish western with a strong cast that marks director Samuel out as an exciting new talent, and it’s a more than decent entry to Netflix’s collection of original films.
Directed By: Jeymes Samuel
Starring: Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Lakeith Stanfield, Delroy Lindo, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, Deon Cole and Damon Wayans Jr.