The Netflix film The Harder They Fall by Jeymes Samuel follows the vengeful Nat Love and his posse of smooth-talking outlaws on the hunt for the ruthless Rufus Buck Gang as they converge on a collision course for retribution. This (relatively) all-Black western homage is jam-packed with amazing actors and set pieces. Couple that with a hip-hop-infused western soundtrack that will get your blood pumping and you have yourself a hit.
The by-the-numbers western tale of revenge is nothing to write home about but telling that story through the eyes (and gun barrels ) of legendary Black cowboys and cowgirls makes the story pop. Combining the likes of Trudy Smith, Nat Love, and the original Lone Ranger Bass Reeves together elevates the film to a sort of Black Cowboy Superhero movie. Think League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but not terrible. The Harder They Fall brings together a number of historical Black figures to a showdown, and the end result is an enjoyable romp through the old west.
The Harder They Fall brings together some heavy-hitters to tell their Black Western. Regina King, Idris Elba, Edi Gathegi, and Delroy Lindo lend their pedigree to the proceedings while Danielle Deadwyler, Zazie Beetz, R.J. Cyler, and LaKeith Lee Stanfield round out the cast of booming talent. Johnathan Majors leads the film as the charismatic Nat Love. Comedians Deon Cole and Damon Waynes Jr. round out the major faces. I saw some MMA fighters in there was well, Donald Cerrone Tait Fletcher. All-in-all a pretty eclectic cast.
Representation is in full effect on-screen during this Black Western, and that’s what Super. Black. likes to see. The film is a well-paced action piece, especially considering the notoriously slow-moving westerns we’ve come to know and love(?). There are some nice moments of levity throughout the film that break up the gunfights and scowling. One moment, in particular, had me wake my wife to let her experience the joke. Like a kid showing their painting to mommy, looking for approval. She didn’t laugh, by the way. I still love her but some of the shine is gone, ya’ know?
My only gripe throughout the movie was the complete lack of energy on the part of Idris Elba. Elba’s Buck barely moves the entire film, and instead, grimaces at the camera for long stretches of screen time. The menacing Rufus Buck can surely pick up the pace, no? Perhaps it was a choice? An attempt to make the character more intimidating? That may be the case but my goodness that man is in molasses the entire film.
The standouts were certainly C.J. Cyler as Jim Beckworth, the faster gunner and mouth in the west, and Danielle Deadwyler as Cuffee, the hard-hitting bouncer. Both chew the scene in their own unique way. Everyone else does a great job, with Regina King absolutely nailing a long-shot monologue later in the film.
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