This review is spoiler-free.
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.
When I was a kid, I despised the Western genre. My Grandad loved it and I was made to watch many movies that, at the time, I just did not enjoy. It was only later in life when I acquired a taste for them, and now some of the movies I thought were ‘boring’ as a child are now some of my favourites! So The Harder They Fall was always going to be on my radar and I think the film succeeds in multiple ways. While many of the characters are based on real people, this is very much a work of fiction and I think not sticking to historical events was the right choice for the movie. So let’s get into the review!
First of all, the cast! Wow. What an ensemble! Jonathan Majors’ (Nat Love) star continues to rise, delivering the kind of breathtaking performance we have come to expect from him. Majors going up against Idris Elba (Rufus Buck) just made for such a gripping conflict, with the two different styles and performances blending together perfectly to make natural enemies out of each other, a factor that benefits the film tenfold. Another duo on a collision course is Regina King (Trudy Smith) and Zazie Beetz (Stagecoach Mary) who were both sensational! There was no second-fiddle story or rivalry here, as their conflict was just as intense and important to the story as that of Love and Buck. Two other performers I want to mention are Danielle Deadwyler (Cuffee) and Lakeith Stanfield (Cherokee Bill) who did an incredible job, almost stealing the movie, despite being in supporting roles.
In terms of the director, for a debut feature film, Jeymes Samuel absolutely crushes it, largely thanks to the bold story and editing choices as well as the visual style. Samuel also flexes his creative muscles on the script, which he co-wrote with Boaz Yakin. The story is packed full of drama and emotion, yet is also brutally funny at the same time. This incredible script, when coupled with such slick visuals and exciting and compelling storytelling just make for a sure-fire hit movie!
Visually, the film is phenomenal. From the editing style to the set design, all the aesthetics and cinematography are just first class. With all of this on top of great performances and a fantastic script, the real cherry on top was the soundtrack and score. I loved the use of contemporary music and every song added to the scene and brought it up to another level.
So with all of this, we are left with a great cast, a funny and emotional story, plenty of ultra-stylized action, and violence which all lead to the perfect combination of movie ingredients that is guaranteed to leave any audience full and satisfied!
Super stylized, with full-blooded violence, The Harder They Fall subverts expectations and brings a revitalising freshness to the Western genre. Powerful character performances mixed with emotional, humorous, and violent beats, all on the backdrop of a killer soundtrack, make The Harder They Fall an absolute must-see Western adventure!