The Harder They Fall
2021, R, 130 min. Directed by Jeymes Samuel. Starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Edi Gathegi, Danielle Deadwyler, Deon Cole.
REVIEWED By Sarah Jane, Fri., Oct. 29, 2021
How is Jonathan Majors not the biggest movie star in the world right now? You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s onscreen. He only appears as He Who Remains/Kang in the series Loki in the last episode but, man, he’s everything. He’s received critical acclaim for his other roles in Lovecraft Country, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and Da 5 Bloods but if you asked the average person in the street if they knew who Jonathan Majors was, they probably couldn’t tell you. Will The Harder They Fall change that? Let’s bloody hope so.
Like many Westerns, The Harder They Fall is about Revenge, with the capital R. Nat Love (Majors) begins to gather his former posse members back together again when he hears that his rival, Rufus Buck (Elba) is getting out of jail. Members of the Love gang include Stagecoach Mary (Beetz), Jim Beckworth (Cyler), and Bill Pickett (Gathegi). The Buck Gang includes Trudy Smith (King) and Cherokee Bill (Stanfield). As these affairs go, the movie is pretty standard: gather the troops, seek out the enemy, and, finally, battle. While it all looked good and played out in interesting ways, the film did feel a bit draggy in places. I didn’t look at my watch because, well, I don’t wear one, but I did start to wonder how much runtime was left.
In a movie stacked, and I mean stacked, with amazing actors one would think it would be nearly impossible to stand out and yet Majors does. That’s not to say many of the others aren’t great because they are. Regina King? Truly outstanding. Lakeith Stanfield? Terrific. Idris Elba? I mean, it’s Idris Elba, and he shares a showdown scene with Majors that absolutely showcases what tremendous actors both men can be.
It's clear Jeymes Samuel never met a Tarantino movie and/or a spaghetti Western he didn't like. That’s not a slight: I love both, but Samuel throws all that up on the screen. There’s some Sam Raimi, too. Really, there isn’t even space to list every influence recognized (there’s a lot) but it might make a fun drinking game when it drops on Netflix. I bet Samuel had the time of his life making this, 'cos it shows. It’s violent. Holy crap, is it violent. It’s unrelenting. It’s bleak. It’s also entertaining as hell. I like watching people die in old timey gun battles, I just do. The body count is high, but so will your enjoyment be, I think, when you watch this. Samuel and Director of Photography Mihai Malaimare Jr. sure do know how to make a purdy picture. The costumes, by Antoinette Messam, were gorgeous. And shout out to whoever made it so I could hear their leather “creaking” when the actors were moving around. Bless them. Wait, is it just me that likes that sound?