The Harder They Fall is a painful lesson in how not to make a Western film. The movie isn’t badass. It’s just bad.
Western lovers who were hoping for a 2021 version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or Django Unchained were left bitterly disappointed by the end of the two-hour-and-19-minute long film.
The movie, which was was released on Netflix on November 3, was directed by Jeymes Samuel, a British filmmaker and singer-songwriter with two other directing credits to his name. It was also produced by rapper and businessman, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, whose influence could be heard throughout the movie. More on that later.
This fictional revenge Western, which is based on real cowboys and outlaws from the 19th century, features an interesting line-up of stars, including Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, Lakeith Stanfield and Deon Cole. However, the script, penned by Samuel and Boaz Yakin, does very little to make those stars shine.
Instead, they’re left with trite dialogue peppered with a few instances of genius.
While Majors, who leads this cast, has gotten much praise for his work in the ABC miniseries, “When We Rise,” he does very little to elevate the film. In fact, he seems very out of his element as a leading man, failing to bring the charm, charisma and chutzpah that the position requires.
Even the gorgeous Elba fails to rescue this mess of a film. He was noticeably absent in several parts and when he did appear on screen, his dialogue was slim.
The Harder They Fall’s Thin Plot
The film centres around Majors’ character, Nat Love, who witnesses outlaw Rufus Buck killing his parents at the family’s kitchen table. Instead of killing the child, Buck instead chooses to carve a cross into his forehead. This trauma leads a now grown Love – who himself is now an outlaw – to embark on a revenge mission to find his parents’ killer.
I’d like to say that the film goes down from there, but it was never up to begin with. The film comes across like some pastiche of a Quentin Tarantino film without the excellent writing and witty banter. It falls wickedly short.
To this day, I am still trying to figure out King’s accent in this film. King, who plays outlaw, “Treacherous” Trudy Smith, sounded Southern, Jamaican and Creole at times. The accent was never consistent, which made her dialogue laughable throughout the film. I kept waiting to see what accent would come in the next scene. British, perhaps?
Powerful Moments In The Film
There were some poignant moments in the film where the script shined. One such instance came during the monologue delivered by King’s character, where she peels an apple while calmly detailing a time when she slit a neighbourhood bully’s throat for making her polio-ridden sister cry. It was one of the best scenes in the film, and was the first time we got to that character’s core.
Towards the end of the film, we also learn exactly why Buck killed Love’s parents and carved a cross into his forehead. Honestly, that moment surprised me.
Interesting Characters Who Made The Film Watchable
Comedian Deon Cole, who plays corrupt mayor, Wiley Escoe and former member of Rufus Buck’s gang, had one of the most amazing intros in the movie. Hands down. So much so, that I found myself rewinding his scene a few times.
If I had to point to the breakout star of this film, it would be him because he was so convincing in the role and had some pretty interesting lines. Is he a bad guy or a good guy? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.
Another interesting character in the film is the wisecracking, quick-shooting Jim Beckworth played by RJ Cyler. He was another actor I enjoyed watching on film. Without him and Cole, this movie would have been a total snoozefest.
Remember earlier when I said you could hear Jay-Z’s influence all over the film? Well, that’s thanks to the killer soundtrack.
The soundtrack was good, but at times seemed very out of place. The fusion of modern music against the backdrop of a 19th century landscape made the film appear amateur. But, at the same time, it made it interesting. So, I won’t nitpick in that area.
I was surprised to read a few online reviews from movie critics who praised the film. I have to wonder what film they were watching or who paid them for their reviews, because the sentiment from regular online reviewers was that the film was not good.
I had absolutely no intention of watching this film, as the trailer did very little to entice me. But, a friend convinced me to give it a shot, and honestly, I’m glad I did because it wasn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen. But, it does feel like a film assignment given to freshman UCLA students.
Excessively brooding characters and trite dialogue wear this film down. It also falls victim to played out tropes. But, it is worth watching, if only to see Deon Cole do his thing.
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