The Harder They Fall

It’s not diversity.  It’s history.  Get that straight from the get-go.  And this violent lesson is delivered with a steely-eyed focus on the REVENGE aspect chiseled deeply into the western genre.  This is the thunderous success of The Harder They Fall, streaming now on Netflix after its brief theatrical run, a historical western which takes its revenge seriously.  

"has its roots in the spaghetti westerns of a bygone era and yet so much of what it accomplishes feels fresh and modern"

With bright colors, a march in its step (thanks to its Hip-Hop soundtrack), a modern take on its action scenes, and a steaming, sun-baked setting, The Harder They Fall rises to the top of my Must-See western list.  It is a pleasure of grit and gristle as Jonathan Majors, who continues to impress with his leading man charisma, as Nat Love takes on Idris Elba’s borderline demonic Rufus Black.  

Fans of westerns are either going to turn this movie off after its brutal opening in which Black carves a cross into Love’s forehead after gunning down his mother and father or they are going to stand up and cheer its unique visual expression.  For me and my tastes, the love and the awe for The Harder They Fall was solidified in that violent opening as it set the stage for a revenge that takes a lifetime to achieve . . . and then it twists the knife a bit more with a shocker that few see coming.

Violence begets violence.  It’s the unwritten law of these dangerous times and here, as Love assembles his rag-tag posse - consisting of sharpshooter Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi), quick-draw Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler), Marshall Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo), Cufee (Danielle Deadwyler) and his former lover, Mary Fields - does everything he can to get the attention of Rufus Black, who gets sprung from his imprisonment by Trudy Smith (a scene-stealing Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (Lakeith Stanfield).  After stealing money that Buck stole, their showdown is imminent.The Harder They Fall

But it is the getting there part that is so much fun in this clever and sometimes indulgent revisionist western which allows for enough screen time for everyone in which to honor character development, motivation, and their talents.  We already know all of this is leading toward a violent, town wide, shoot-out.  There’s no surprise there.  It is the absolute and total commitment by the actors to their characters and to the movie that makes this work as well as it does.  

Much of this film is violent and epic in scope, thanks to the ON POINT direction from Director Jeymes Samuel, who co-wrote the film with Boaz Yakin, the production design from Martin Whist, and cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare Jr.  And don’t even get me started on the set decoration.  This is a stellar work by all on board and it shows and is appreciated.

The Harder They Fall has its roots in the spaghetti westerns of a bygone era and yet so much of what it accomplishes feels fresh and modern.  Even its mythology works in a way that isn’t as overly melodramatic as it could have been in lesser hands.  This is focused and kinetic, making the most of every minute as guns get reloaded and sharp landscapes get explored by a lens eager to engage the viewer.  

Ready for a new breed of ride or die?  The Harder The Fall has just what you are looking for. 

5/5 stars

 Film Details

The Harder They Fall

MPAA Rating: PG-13 on appeal for crude sexual content and language.
130 mins
: Jeymes Samuel
Jeymes Samuel; Boaz Yakin
Jonathan Majors; Zazie Beetz; RJ Cyler
: Western
New Blood in the Old West.
Memorable Movie Quote: "How long you been alive in this country? A rock and a hard place is what we call Monday."
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 3, 2021.
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: When an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge in this Western.


The Harder They Fall