Rating: 15 Cast: Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield and Idris Elba. Directed by Jeymes Samuel Written by Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin. Length: 139mins
When outlaw Nat Love discovers that the man who murdered his parents in front of him as a child is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to take revenge. What more could you ask for? A revenge Western packed with memorable characters played by brilliant actors, each scene and moment staged for power and authority.
This movie caught my attention while scrolling through Netflix, mostly thanks to the big name cast. The trailer presents a very accurate snapshot of what it is, a contemporary Western, which is an interesting concept in itself. Now the plot is relatively basic, but the content is just so interesting to watch. You can see a lot of Jeymes Samuels influences within the film, it feels very Tarantino at times and is a really artistic film. The framing and the camerawork is beautiful, the colour palette is vibrant and the music is something else. While the general aesthetic is classic western, there are quick-draws, large-scale gunfights, horse stunts, and chases, a train robbery, bank robberies, and a couple of hand-to-hand brawls with several cliches that we would expect in a Western; bottles smashed over heads, fights with pitch forks, men thrown out of windows etc…the soundtrack and fight sequences are the main elements that keep it feeling modern and fresh.
The Harder They Fall is Jeymes Samuel’s debut feature film but his CV boasts experience of working with some incredible talent. In this film he gifts his actors with precious moments where their characters are allowed to listen to each other and quietly glance at each other. It truly feels like a ‘filmmakers film’ and I can only imagine that the cast leapt at the opportunity to be a part of it. While the whole cast is strong, lead by the brilliant Jonathan Majors, there are a couple who stand out. Idris Elba, unsurprisingly, brings a cool, mysterious quiet to the high energy of the rest of the cast and Regina King who we all know delivers in every single role. King brought everything that her character required, moments of vulnerability countered with absolute brutal, no nonsense reactions.
Now the film does feel quite long, the plot isn’t particularly captivating and some of it is fairly predictable, but it’s very difficult to criticise a film that really does feel like art. Yes, it wont be to everyones taste, but it really is worth the watch for all of the heart that comes through in its presentation. While speaking to GQ, Samuel said “I always loved Westerns, but they would always present a very narrow scope in those stories. They’d be very white male-centric. They wouldn’t even show women with any power in those stories.” and I think you can really feel his words in this movie, he explores human nature, gives voices to powerful women and explores a genre that he clearly cares so much about.