Wednesday 3 November 2021

The Harder They Fall (Movie Review)

Boyz n the Hood meets the Wild West in the new Netflix Original, The Harder They Fall. The movie is just the latest one to hit the streaming platform from the more than 70 it had promised to release this year. Most of those movies have turned out to be resounding duds though, with more misses than actual hits doting their 2021 lineup thus far. But as we enter into awards season, we can expect the wheat to get separated from the chaff. The question then is where exactly does their new Blaxploitation Western fall within that quality spectrum?

In The Harder They Fall, a young outlaw named Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) finds that his quest for revenge is brought back to the forefront when his archenemy, Rufus Black (Idris Elba), gets sprung out from prison. He learns that Rufus had in fact taken control of a small town, but that his plans to turn it into a safe haven are challenged by some financial setbacks. Nat rides there to liberate the townsfolk, together with his posse of sharpshooters. Except what they find there is something they were not prepared for and Nat would be forced to test just how far he is willing to go to get his revenge. 

Revenge is a dish best served cold as they say, and I am as much a sucker for a good Spaghetti Western as the next man. So when Netflix had originally dropped the first trailer for The Harder They Fall, you can bet that I was immediately intrigued. The concept of a Blaxploitation Western is nothing new of course, with films like Django Unchained having already laid the framework for how they can be done to near perfection. So it shouldn't really come as a surprise that The Harder They Fall follows that same template almost religiously.

The first thing that undoubtedly stands out about the movie though is the killer ensemble. The film does a good job of establishing all the key characters, giving just enough context for their individual motivations to make them captivating whenever they were onscreen. That is, until they start engaging in some leaps of logic, all in the name of advancing the plot. I won't go into specifics but it is somewhat aggravating that the script hadn't received nearly as much love as other facets of the film.

Speaking of which, the entire film drips with style and it certainly doesn't shy away from wearing its influences on its sleeves. Then again, neither did Quentin Tarantino in his many Spaghetti Western-influenced movies. The film is competently shot, with scenes that were expertly framed to maximize the growing tensions between the characters. The same can be said about the editing, which keeps those scenes rolling along despite its two-hour-plus runtime.

Sadly, the illusion is often broken by some flimsy-looking Production Design, which might have been excusable in the heydays of the Hollywood Western, but stands out like a sore thumb today. Then there is the soundtrack, which while great on its own merits, often works to distract from the onscreen action, rather than enhance it, making the whole thing feel like an overproduced music video sometimes.

The Harder They Fall comes close to being all style with very little substance, but the movie is elevated by some truly great performances from its stellar ensemble. It was clear that each actor was having as much fun as they could with their roles, and it is that fun that ultimately resonates with us the viewer. The film certainly delivers on its promise of a solid Spaghetti Western which is why it earns an easy recommendation from me for fans of the genre and any of the actors involved.


  1. I really like Idris Elba so I'll give it a go. I enjoy a fun Western.