“The Harder They Fall” absolutely slaps. The Hollywood Western is a fairly old genre, full of clichés and overused tropes. But this movie is contagious and breathes life into a dying genre.
“The Harder They Fall” follows Nat Turner, played by the amazing Jonathon Majors (“Loki”), as he hunts down the outlaw who murdered his parents, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba, “The Suicide Squad”), after he was released from jail by Trudy Smith (Regina King, “Watchmen”) and Cherokee Bill (Lakeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”). Nat is joined by his own band of outlaws and lawmen forced to bend the rules, including Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz, “Joker”), Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler, “White Boy Rick”) and Bill Picket (Edi Gathegi, “Caged”). The movie tells us right away that while every person in this movie existed, counteracting the old Hollywood belief that the Wild West was almost entirely white, the events are entirely fictional. Most of these people never met in real life, and the movie versions of them are vastly different from their real-life counterparts, but they were all actual Black men and women who shaped the history of the United States.
When watching “The Harder They Fall,” I couldn’t help but stomp my foot to the beat. The film’s soundtrack has groove, style and is utter perfection. Dramatic shots of wild, untamed desert are contrasted by a modern hip-hop score. The director, Jeymes Samuel (“They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories”), is a British singer-songwriter who also wrote the music for the movie, and his talent shows. The music isn’t just an afterthought; it’s expertly intertwined into the movie. There is a mix of songs intergrated into the scenes (with the characters singing the songs) and songs used in the score. All of these songs I unashamedly went back to watch again after I finished the movie.
“The Harder They Fall” doesn’t just sound cool; it also looks cool, full of detailed sets and costumes that are shown off with dramatic camera work. The camera often has its own sense of rhythm on top of the beat of the music: It’s never static for too long, but the movement still feels precise and carefully choreographed.
The style of the movie does have its downsides, the most obvious one being the dialogue. When the characters are talking to each other, it sounds less like a real conversation and more like quips being exchanged until one person comes out on top. This makes for many funny and memorable lines, but at some points, the rhythm gets overplayed. It also means the raw and emotional scenes in the movie can feel a little underwhelming. However, this is often made up for by the stellar cast, who all make the stilted tonal jumps a lot less jarring.
Majors is the breakout star in a cast full of already big-name actors. His character, Nat Turner, might not be the funniest — that role is given to the supporting characters, who bring levity to the movie’s heavier subject matter — but he is definitely the character everyone will root for. He is the heart of the film, delivering the most emotional performance and making it more than just a stylized Western, but also an empathetic story about the search for vengeance.
The cast is overall phenomenal, each of them playing their own role with a clear vision. None of the characters get lost in the chaos of the movie, a difficult accomplishment considering the sheer size of the cast. Without the great performances, this movie wouldn’t be nearly as fun and wacky as it is.
“The Harder They Fall” is a must-watch for anyone with a Netflix subscription. Even if the Western genre isn’t for you, everyone can find something about this movie that they will love.
Daily Arts Writer Zach Loveall can be reached at email@example.com.