Jeymes Samuel's film is worth watching because of the stylized way it tells an all-too-familiar tale of revenge. Visually appealing, its interpretation is fused with unforgettable musical renditions and elevated by a noteworthy trinity; Idris Elba, Regina King, and Lakeith Stanfield.
Starring Jonathan Majors as Nate Love, a vengeful outlaw with payback on his mind, The Harder They Fall is a unique western that thrives on well-written characters, dialogue, bloody action, and stupendous music.
As a child, the protagonist watched his parents slaughtered by the notorious Rufus Buck (Idris Elba). For some unfathomable reason, Rufus spares the kid, scarring him for life (literally and figuratively).
Years later, Nate hears that Rufus is getting out of jail and with his old gang behind him, goes on a trail that leads to the inevitable confrontation he has waited for his entire life.
The trailer gave fans the impression of non-stop action but that isn't the case with The Harder They Fall. After the first few scenes, what ensues is a middle with a lot of dialogue, leading to some lagging in terms of pacing. When the third act and final showdown does arrive, it proves to be worth the wait, and it's the ladies who steal the show for me.
Jeymes Samuel's film doesn't have anything spectacular in terms of cinematography but the well-choreographed action scenes mixed with the expected gore from a movie with an R-rating more than makes up for that.
One of the best things about this movie is its cast. When you have some of the best black actors in Hollywood in a single film, there is hardly a dull moment.
As the lead, Jonathan Majors makes for a compelling and flawed hero whose backstory should have been explored a bit further given that tragedy shaped him into the man he turns out to be. I also feel that there should have been more layers to the character.
Nate's quest for vengeance is a pretty straightforward one but when he gets to the end of the road, he is confronted by a staggering truth, the revelation of which shakes him to his very core.
Idris Elba is amazing as the ruthless Rufus Buck. He is a man of few words who lets his actions speak more for him than words ever could. He inspires fear and respect from friends and foes alike. Like the hero, something in his past set him on his path and when that comes to the fore during his confrontation with his nemesis, I suddenly stopped hating the guy.
Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba in THE HARDER THEY FALL
The talented Regina King is no less convincing as the stone-cold Trudy Smith. She's the right-hand man (or woman) of the antagonist. She believes so much in his cause that she will do anything to prove her loyalty. I enjoyed watching her so much that I almost forgot she is the secondary antagonist.
Lakeith Stanfield is another dude who continues to grow on me with his stellar performances. Having watched him in Get Out and Judas and the Black Messiah, I would say that he may be on the path to becoming the next Samuel L. Jackson.
As the character Cherokee Bill, Stanfield embodies everything you admire and hate in a capable and fearless henchman. His menacing presence and swagger make his portrayal all the more realistic.
Zazie Beetz plays Stagecoach Mary, the love interest of the protagonist. She isn't your typical damsel in distress (that is until she actually becomes a damsel in distress). Her fight scene with Regina King's Trudy for me is the best part of the final showdown. As a Nigerian, I was proud when Fela's music roared to the bloody mayhem of the final act as the two ladies and others fought to the death.
All the other supporting characters bring their A-game and their contribution makes The Harder They Fall a unique western that is worth a second watch.
Also, the set pieces are impressive and the locale is well-suited to the story and the movie genre. Jeymes Samuel knows how to make a memorable action drama and I look forward to seeing more of the same from him in the near future.