Title – The Harder They Fall (2021)
Director – Jeymes Samuel (They Die by Dawn)
Cast – Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Damon Wayans Jr.
Plot – When his arch nemesis Rufus Buck (Elba) is set to escape his imprisonment during the violent time of the wild American west, outlaw Nat Love (Majors) gets his old crew back together to hatch a plan to put an end to Buck’s reign once and for all.
“A rock and a hard place is what we call Monday”
Review by Eddie on 10/12/2021
A distinctively different western that has style and swagger to burn, if you were to judge director Jeymes Samuel’s first proper feature film The Harder They Fall on visuals and aesthetics alone it would go down as one of 2021’s most impressive entries but sadly many other elements to Samuel’s star-studded exercise don’t stack up to much scrutiny.
Enlisting some of the best established and up and coming performers working in Hollywood today, with Harder’s story of Jonathan Major’s revenge seeking Nat Love and his posse that includes Zazie Beetz, RJ Cyler and Delroy Lindo going against an imposing Idris Elba as brutal criminal boss Rufus Buck and his hombres that includes LaKeith Stanfield (in another scene stealing turn) and Regina King (practically glowing with menacing vibes), Harder has so much to enjoy in an eye candy sense and Samuel’s keen visual flourishes mixed with a killer soundtrack give the film a distinct look but it’s impossible to get overly invested in a film with such a hum-drum narrative and poorly structured story.
At well over two hours in length, this Netflix released offering certainly has enough time to make us care for what’s going but despite a splattering of great scenes (culminating in a well shot bullet filled finale) you often find your mind wandering off to other things through a large portion of Samuel’s film as Nat Love and Rufus Buck go about their various business dealings and devious plans to come out on top but Harder merely feels like a melting pot of other westerns and their ideas and struggles to keep the energy going that you experience in the film early on and through some of the performances.
As a viewer you can sense the actors working over time in a film they clearly were invested in, Majors continues his hot run of form that is quickly marking him down as one of the talents to watch in Hollywood with the likes of this and Last Black Man in San Francisco and TV series Lovecraft Country examples of a very special actor at work while Idris Elba is also as good as his been in a feature for some time with a role that makes the most of his natural charisma and hulking frame, as if Stringer Bell himself was transported back into the wild wild west.
This sense that Harder could’ve been something really special, a western with a style, voice and substance all to its own is the prevailing feeling that overrides everything else in Samuel’s final cut, a great shame for both him, his cast and Netflix who had the chance to deliver in a big way here only to come up short with a forgettable feature unable to utilise all its ingredients in a satisfactory way.
Final Say –
Sure to find a collection of fans, The Harder They Fall is an oddly cold and forgettable style-infused western that on first appearances seems set to provide something special, only to quickly burn out into something that’s hard to care about and even harder to remember.
2 named train carriages out of 5
Once again I have to agree with you. I didn’t really get the hype, it was basically style over substance. Sometimes that’s enough, but sometimes not. This one really didn’t make me care about it very much and it is forgettable at the end of the day. Probably worth a watch if you like the genre, but for me it wasn’t really special.
Yeh I really struggled to care about any of the characters in this film and while it had lots of “cool” moments and stylish directional choices, there was nothing memorable here at all.