A New Old Western
If you plan to see The Harder They Fall, be prepared for a rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ Western. But this time, the characters are played by a great cast of Black actors. And they portray real people who existed back in the 1890s. Also, this new Western boasts a wonderful musical soundtrack practically embedded in the script – one that includes Reggae, Hip-Hop and Spirituals.
Outlaw gangs and revenge take center stage. It all begins with a 10-year-old boy watching a gang kill his father and mother. Plus, the leader, Rufus Buck (Idres Elba), scars the boy with a knife before leaving. That youngster grows up to be Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), an outlaw himself. He’s also out for vengeance against Rufus Buck. Elba and Majors deliver splendid performances. They make us want to boo the villain and cheer on the anti-hero.
Kudos to director Jeymes Samuel and co-writer Boaz Yakin for the intriguing fictional story as well as for adding bits of surprising humor (like the white town bank robbing segment and jaw-dropping surprises along the way). But the film’s plot is not as important as the way it’s presented. Crisp visuals, lots of close-ups, clever cinematography by Mihai Mălaimare Jr. along with the music choices make this offering something special. However, I am not surprised that the music stands out here. After all, director Samuel writes songs and has his own band. Seal is his brother, so talent runs in his family. And Jay-Z also helped with the music.
Watching revenge in the Old West
alive with shootings, a bloodfest.
“The Harder They Fall” has it all.
Black outlaw groups answer the call.
They fight each other with such flair.
We can’t help asking how they dare.
Acting and soundtrack can’t be beat.
Using real characters is neat.
Black cowboys and women lived in
the West those days, and some did sin.
But they’ve been missing in movies.
So here’s a Western that will please.
One of the highlights for me involves the powerful performances of Zazie Beetz as saloon owner Stagecoach Mary, who loves Nat, and Regina King as Trudy Smith, Rufus Buck’s fierce bodyguard. Not since Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies have I seen such tough women on screen. Their characters are on opposite sides, and their brutal hand-to-hand battle ends up being one of the best action scenes this year. Other actors who stand out include Delroy Lindo as a helpful U.S. Marshall, and Danielle Deadwyler as Cuffee, Stagecoach Mary’s amusing protector.
And, oh yes, here are my four favorite songs from the soundtrack:
“Guns Go Bang” performed by Kid Cudi & Jay-Z
“Black Woman” by Samuel & performed by Ms. Lauryn Hill
“Ain’t No Better Love” performed by Seal
“Do Unto Others” performed by the Fisk Jubilee Singers
(Released by Netflix and rated “R” for strong violence and language.)
WARNING: The Harder They Fall definitely earns its “R” rating.