The Old West gets a little wilder in director Jeymes Samuel's romp, The Harder They Fall for Netflix. Jeymes Samuel & Boaz Yakin co-wrote the script, which uses real-life historical figures and turns them into larger-than-life heroes & villains. The film opens with our hero as a child witnessing the cold-blooded murder of his parents by a mysterious figure.
The boy grows up to become outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors). When he discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being released from prison, he rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Those riding with him include his former love, Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), his right and left-hand men--hot-tempered Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi), and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth (R.J. Cyler)--and a surprising adversary-turned-ally Bass Lindo). As luck would have it, though, Rufus Buck also has a fearsome crew, including "Treacherous" Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), and they are not a group that knows how to lose, no matter how many bodies fall along the way.
For as long as I can remember, Westerns were a part of my life. During my childhood, I spent many Saturdays watching my elders take in reruns of Gunsmoke and Bonanza. As a child, I had considerable disdain for the genre, outside of two films from 1985, Silverado and Pale Rider. As I got older, my appreciation for the genre bloomed. At age 12, I saw my first Western with a majority black cast, Posse. And later, I discovered the classics Adios Amigo and Buck and the Preacher. So how does the latest Western with cowboys who look like me measure up?
Director Jeymes Samuel previously dabbled in the Western genre with the 2013 short; They Die by Dawn. Actors such as Harry Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine, and the late Michael Kenneth Williams appeared in the film, portraying some of the real-life figures who appear here. Samuel has an appreciation for the genre from the moment he introduces us to our characters. Steering this ship is the immensely talented Jonathan Majors who brings swagger and moral code to Nat Love. Whether he’s firing a weapon or making a deal with the characters portrayed by Zazie Beetz and Delory Lindo, Major is electric on-screen.
The rest of Nat Love’s gang all get their chance to shine and provide solid supporting work. My favorite character, though, would have to be Jim Beckwourth (R.J. Cyler). In the role, Cyler brings the right amount of youthful arrogance it requires. I genuinely hope that this is the breakout role for Cyler, as he deserves it.
Idris Elba leads the Rufus Buck gang compromised of an Oscar Winner and Oscar Nominee. Regina King and LaKeith Stanfield are having a blast in the roles of "Treacherous" Trudy Smith and Cherokee Bill. Naturally, the trio of actors who make up the Rufus Buck gang could deliver a good performance in their sleep, but it was great to see them interact. I also want to give kudos to the music department for a fire soundtrack as well.
I will say that director Jeymes Samuel could have trimmed down the film by about 15 minutes. However, I was having so much fun with the cast's chemistry, the fisticuffs, stare downs, and, of course, shootouts, I can let a few things slide. I do also wish I could have seen this in a theater as the film exemplifies a crowd pleaser.
Combining pristine choreographed gunfights and highlighting forgotten heroes of the old west ,
The Harder They Fall is highly recommended.
Final Grade: A
The Harder They Fall is available to stream on Netflix tomorrow November 3rd .