Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Harder They Fall - Review


While the story of this stylish western may not have actually happened, the opening texts reiterates ‘These. People. Existed.’ And though it may tick many of the classic western boxes, the energy that pulses throughout the film makes it a whole lot of fun in the end. Through the blending of real-life outlaws with a fictional tale of revenge, director Jeymes Samuel has announced his presence on the scene with flair and confidence.

When an outlaw (Jonathan Majors) discovers his enemy (Idris Elba) is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge.

In 2021, few ensembles can compete with the star power on display in The Harder They Fall. The cast is full of excellent performances from actors giving their all. The always wonderful Regina King is poised and deadlier then ever as Trudy Smith. RJ Cyler sells the cocky, quick draw Jim Beckworth, buying into his own mythology as a dastardly outlaw. But the two at the center of this conflict, provide the emotional centerpiece for this revenge tale to connect.

By now, we know Idris Elba is a star. But as Rufus Buck, the damaged, villainous outlaw, Elba gets to show he’s more than just a gruff face and a killer voice. He gets moments of emotion here that he doesn’t always get and proves his merit as the skilled actor he is. On the other side is the fast rising Jonathan Majors. Since he emerged onto the scene just a few years back, Majors has continually upped his game, proving time and time again that’s he’s a force to be reckoned with, and The Harder They Fall just serves to prove that even more.

Where some westerns can falter, and often do, is in their lack of a visual flair that’s distinctive and unique. Jeymes Samuel has no issues insuring that The Harder They Fall doesn’t lack in that department. It’s a confident directorial debut, one that showcases he knows how to frame shots and make scenes that would otherwise fall flat, dynamic and kinetic where other westerns would let them stagnate. Everything from the production design, the costumes, and the music fit perfectly into the vision that Samuel has in mind. 

This is by no means a perfect film, very few debuts are. However, from its opening moments (and excellent title sequence), the film lays out what its selling, and if you buy in, you’re in for a good time. Filled with great performances, creative musical choices, and gorgeous production value, The Harder They Fall is more than worthy of your time. 

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