Jeymes Samuel’s American Revisionist Western The Harder They Fall follows outlaw Nat Love and his entourage as he seeks revenge on the man who killed his family.
There’s something special about The Harder They Fall that sets it apart from a great many other films: its Blackness.
Featuring the incredible cast of Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi and Deon Cole, the film is overflowing with talent and personality. Each of the actors brings their A-game, and it shows.
This, in addition to Black bodies portraying real-life Black cowboys, is deeply meaningful. While cowboys and outlaws were historically often violent criminals, fictionally, they’re frequently charismatic anti-heroes who challenge tyrannical authority.
Placing a Black person in the role of the cowboy is a considerable risk. With the cowboy being prone to excessive violence, it’s easy for stereotypes to surface that reinforce harmful attitudes. Fortunately, The Harder They Fall doesn’t fall into that trap.
Alongside all the cowboys – both good and bad – being portrayed by Black people, each character has depth and dimension to their backstories, which is represented well throughout the narrative.
But beyond the cast’s fantastic performances, The Harder They Fall delivers on a great many other aspects that make the film as good as it is.
For instance, the set design is spectacular. The bright pops of colour blend well with the film’s hyper-stylized aesthetic. While reminiscent of classic Western movies, the buildings in The Harder They Fall are brighter, flashier and beautifully vibrant.
This, along with the gorgeous costume design, creates a majestic, stylish and outright badass feel. Beetz’s and King’s costumes are especially gorgeous. Truly, every inch of The Harder They Fall is a sight to behold.
Plus, the action is thrilling in the best way possible. The final third of the film in particular delivers some bombastic, actionpacked scenes with flashy gunslinging and explosive combat sequences. Each second is quick, intense and fun to watch.
What really brings everything together is the music. The soundtrack is clever, and, once again, unapologetically Black. The music perfectly accentuates the mood of each scene. At times, the songs are very much on the nose, but never in a bad way. The instances where the characters sing themselves are some of the best scenes in the movie.
Each piece of The Harder They Fall accumulates into a highly stylized, lively romp. It’s a must-see. Bursting with colour and swagger, it’s funny, emotional, jarring and wild. It’d take a significant amount of effort to not enjoy this film.
Published in Volume 76, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 25, 2021)