“The Harder They Fall” stars Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Lakeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, and Deon Cole. Released on October 22, 2021, the film is about a cowboy who reunites his crew to seek the criminal who murdered his parents.
The film featured the directorial debut of Jeymes Samuel, also known as “The Bullitts”. If you want to get revenge, you need the best crew possible. That crew, in particular, happens to have a few familiar faces in the movie business. Netflix continues its approach in putting its films on the big screen with a Western film that combines an all-star cast with its energetic flair. What intrigues me the most about this film is not the cast themselves, but the people behind it. This is the first full-length feature film to be helmed by singer-songwriter Jeymes Samuel, who happens to be Seal’s brother, with rapper Jay-Z backing him up as one of its producers. It’s quite an interesting scenario to see artists get into the film business, whether on the screen or behind it, and “The Harder They Fall” managed to be one of those examples. The question is, are their musical talents worthy enough to provide some entertainment in the Western genre?
The story follows Nat Love (Majors), a cowboy who’s based on a real-life Western figure. He discovers that his enemy, a ruthless criminal named Rufus Buck (Elba), has been released from prison. Buck has committed devilish crimes throughout Texas, including murdering Nat’s parents in cold blood. Nat then sets out to round up his former gang and take down Buck and his crew for good before the villain can do more harm. Nat’s crew consists of his former love Stagecoach Mary (Beetz), his right and left men Bill Pickett (Gathegi) and Jim Beckwourth (Cyler), and an adversary-turned-ally. The only way I can describe this movie is that it’s “Django Unchained”, but without the Tarantino flair. Both films provide a mixture that combines the old-school Western elements with a modern filmmaking style and a funky soundtrack. The only difference between the two is the amount of blood that’s spilled onscreen. When it’s not trying too hard to become the next “Django”, it serves as an entertaining and stylistic revenge film representing the Black Western genre. The plot is about as formulaic and straightforward as a Western could get. However, it extensively relied on its cast, storytelling, and action to shoot its way past its mediocrity. Jonathan Majors led the bunch of highly talented actors with a satisfying performance as Nat Love, further showcasing his worth to be in the big movie leagues, notably the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Kang the Conqueror. Idris Elba as Rufus Buck also proved that he can still deliver the goods in villainous roles, and Zazie Beetz offered some well-earned moments as Mary. RJ Cyler as Jim Beckwourth happens to be the best of the bunch regarding his energetic charm and humor. In every scene he’s in, Cyler was able to entertain with a smile on his face. Seriously, why isn’t this guy getting any more roles like this? Jeymes Samuel had a lot to prove to see if his filmmaking skills were as good as his music career. While it’s far from perfect, his direction delivered enough vitality and style to the film’s Western vibes to impress fans of the genre and modern moviegoers. Unfortunately, its slick spirit started to struggle with the momentum during the middle act. It’s not to say that it’s tedious since the pacing and the cast managed to keep things moving along. It’s the fact that it didn’t offer enough wild ideas to fill its two-hour-plus runtime. Well, aside from that one gag involving a white town. That one was hilariously clever.
Overall, “The Harder They Fall” has enough firepower to deliver a fun and dynamic addition to the Black Western genre. While its story didn’t have anything beyond its revenge-seeking formula, the film compensated with its style and shoot-em-up antics. Thanks to its charismatic cast, direction, and entertainment values, this is a promising start for Jeymes Samuel’s future as a filmmaker. If it’s playing at a theater near you and you’re a fan of Westerns, it’s worth checking out. However, if you’re not ready to head back to the cinema yet, don’t worry. The film will be released on Netflix for you to watch at home soon. It’s a win-win for all of us.