“Fall” Rises


By Paul Hall

The Old West has had its share of good guys and outlaws. We’ve enjoyed a plethora of classic Westerns filled with dusty streets, the local church, and sheriffs and marshals aplenty. But most have never seen a Western quite like The Harder They Fall, in theaters now and coming soon to Netflix.

While the events of this story are fictional … These. People. Existed. These words open the film and set the tone for the Western we are about to collectively experience. We get bank robbers, robberies of the bank robbers and shootouts, and that is all in the first 10 minutes of the film. And most importantly, we get Nat Love (Jonathan Majors). Love has his gang of outlaws who roam the West. He has been trying to settle some age-old scores and heads to see an old flame, Mary Fields (Zazie Beetz).

While visiting Mary, Nat finds out that the No. 1 individual on his revenge list, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), is near and just may be ripe for retribution.

Rufus, after being extricated from captivity by his gang, has set forth on the task of retaking a town he helped create. He would impose a tax on the residents that would afford the protection they need, and while they didn’t like the idea, they value their lives more than the money and comply.

As the Nat Love Gang rolls into town, a showdown is inevitable. Who will survive the shootouts, and who will end up calling these dust-filled streets their final resting place?

This is not your father’s Old West tale. The storylines are similar throughout as two rival gangs go head-to-head over a variety of issues. Director Jeymes Samuel delivers a tale that deliciously details a West we haven’t experienced before. And while all the visuals of the Old West are present and as gloriously displayed as ever, Samuel adds a contemporary soundtrack that puts a spin on the development of the story.

Majors delivers a performance embodying the revenge and rage of a man who has had everything taken from him. Despite competing for screen time with other big names, Majors (Lovecraft Country, Da 5 Bloods) is able to deliver as the lead in the film.

The two rival gangs are loaded with talented actors who make things fun to watch. On the female front Beetz, Regina King and Danielle Deadwyler lead the way with some of the strongest women you will see on the screen. I could never cross any of them, as they would beat me to a pulp and smile while doing it. And each is beautiful in her own right, creating a lethal combination for our stars.

Both gangs are filled with some of the hottest actors working today alongside Majors. Elba rules the roost and I immediately believed he was the ruthless Buck. No matter where you turn with the film, star power exists. From Elba and Majors to RJ Cyler, LaKeith Stanfield and Delroy Lindo, we are treated to a barrage of talent in the film.

The Harder They Fall comes in a bit long and could use some cutting to provide a tighter and better flow. It also features some excessive violence that could have been toned down a touch. But these players are undoubtedly enjoying their roles and the ability to bring a different perspective to a genre that has been very one-dimensional.

Perspective matters and the message matters as well. The Harder They Fall is a classic Western that will open eyes everywhere. Music and visuals with a great cast make this experience rise instead of fall.

Paul’s Grade: B- / C+

The Harder They Fall
Rated R
Stars: Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, RJ Cyler, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Idris Elba
Director: Jeymes Samuel