It’s been a while since Hollywood produced a decent Western and The Harder They Fall came at just the right time. It reintroduced the genre with a lot more spunk and came up with an entertaining movie all throughout.
Synopsis: Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) grew up seeking revenge against the outlaw who killed his parents before his very eyes. The outlaw in question is Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), a notorious gang leader who is freshly sprung out of prison by his crew and has now established a stronghold in Redwood.
Most Westerns are dominated by white actors and for a change, The Harder They Fall focused on an almost entirely all black cast with an occasional white actor in the background. If you’re wondering why this is, its because the characters were actually based on real life people (although the events were fictitious).
Director Jeymes Samuel did a great job of puling off the mix of a traditional white genre with different cultures by using music and dialogue. Injecting different types of music like the rap music at the beginning really made the scene stand out and added to its bad**sery. They also mixed some jazz, soul and reggae into the mix, which helped set the tone for the scenes, adding a sense of suspense, adventure and action to the sequences and gave them the proper pacing.
It was a powerhouse cast for sure. I mean, Idris Elba, rising star Jonathan Majors, Regina King whipped their roles but I still felt as though there was an imbalance in the establishment of the characters with the Buck gang members given the more emphasis. The train scene and the taking of Redwood were brutal scenes that served to mark the gang as a brutal group who would stop at nothing to get what they want, but on the flipside, there’s something about the eyes of Rufus, Trudy, and Cherokee Bill (Lakeith Steinfeld) that held an air of mystery, like they were holding on to a secret. This was why even though they were most certainly the villains of the piece, I was holding out hope for redemption for them, which some of them sort of got in the end.
Nat Love’s gang was charismatic bunch and really fun to watch but the foreshadowing was too much of a giveaway to keep who was going to survive until the very end.
The gunfights and the action sequences were great even though the movie took its time to insert lengthy dialogues in between. I liked that gender was not an issue and all the actors were given an equal amount of respect when it came to developing the characters. The women were just as tough as the men, no question about it.
The set looked Western enough but more often than not, it felt like staged set because the town seemed. There were also no indication that there were other structures apart from those flanking the center of the street.
As for the feel, I liked that the movie also took a page from Pulp Fiction in its approach and its brutality. You could almost feel the recoil from each kill and each gunfire.
I liked the humor and the wisecracks that seemed more contemporary instead from the gunslinger period. As I said, it made things interesting.
All in all, The Harder They Fall was a great film. Kudos to lead stars Idris Alba and Jonathan Majors for portraying such engaging characters. It was a unique vision of a classic genre which worked effectively, thanks to a bit of creativity and determination to push the envelope.