LFF Review: The Harder They Fall

LFF Review of The Harder They Fall starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, R. J. Cyler, Edi Gathegi, Danielle Deadwyler, Damon Wayans Jr. and Deon Cole

DIRECTED BY

Jeymes Samuel

STARRING

Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, R. J. Cyler, Edi Gathegi, Danielle Deadwyler, Damon Wayans Jr. and Deon Cole

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SYNOPSIS

When an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge in this Western.

Film Review from BFI London Film Festival of The Harder They Fall - Regina King, Idris Elba and LaKeith Stanfield

In this western, outlaw Nat Love discovers that his enemy, Rufus Buck, is being released from prison, so he reunites his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge.

Film Review - The Harder They Fall - Jonathan Majors, Delroy Lindo and R.J Cyler

The Harder They Fall is the film that opened this years BFI London Film Festival, which marks Jeymes Samuel (also known as The Bullitts) directorial feature debut . When outlaw Nat Love discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck is being released from prison, he rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Those riding alongside Nat Love includes his former love Stagecoach Mary, his right- and left-hand men; hot-tempered Bill Pickett and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth, as well as a surprising adversary-turned-ally. Rufus Buck has his own fearsome crew, including “Treacherous” Trudy Smith and Cherokee Bill, and they are not a group that knows how to lose.

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While this will be marked as a feature debut from Jemyes Samuel, he absolutely feels like a veteran behind the camera in the way that he directs this film and you can feel that Samuel has an adoration for the Western genre as a whole, whilst giving it a particular coolness to it. For example, when Stagecoach Mary is introduced, we feel the rhythm of her presence being made with each stump on the ground, jolting the camera closer to Nat Love’s face, and the film is sprinkled with little moments like that that I absolutely adored. Having been handpicked by Baz Luhrmann and Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter to be an executive music consultant on The Great Gatsby, it should come as no surprise that the music chosen in Samuel’s film flows with the rhythm of the film with its use of Barrington Levy’s ‘Here I Come’, which is remixed to by Samuel himself and he makes it be just another important element to the film. While the ensemble is large, Samuel certainly lets them have to time to shine within the films over two hour runtime, so much so that the audience will walk away with their own personal favourite character/performance. Jonathan Majors gives a charismatic performance as Nat Love, a man so set on completing his life goal of revenge (and the audience will see why that is), you wonder can a man like that can ever truly settle once he completes his mission? Idris Elba provides an ever-commanding presence as the primary villain Rufus Buck, who has the ambition to maintain the town of Redwood in his own version and his reasoning for that is what makes him compelling to watch, portraying much of what he does with a look moreso than words. LaKeith Stanfield gives a compelling performance as Cherokee Bill, a figure who has a large reputation within this world and who appears to be rather tired, worn down by it, always seemingly looking to use his violent reputation as a last resort. R. J. Cyler absolutely shines as Jim Beckwourth, the fast-shooting fast-talker who is just itching to make his own name for himself at the sake of Cherokee Bill.

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Regina King absolutely owns the screen whenever she appears as Buck’s right-hand “Treacherous” Trudy Smith, who could easily lead her own band of outlaws, but there’s a mutual respect between the two that adds another interesting layer to the film. Her monologue scene of explaining her origin of how she came to be as cold and ruthless as she is is arguably one of the best scenes in the film and King has your attention with every word in the process. Zazie Beetz gives a really good performance as Stagecoach Mary, with her memorable introduction scene (another highlight of the film) and just like the Buck/Trudy dynamic, there’s also a mutual respect between Mary/Love that provides another layer to grip audiences and you do really care about these friendships/relationships among the characters. Finally, in regards to Danielle Deadwyler…I’ve not seen any of her previous work (I haven’t caught up on all of Watchmen yet) but I will have to track down what I can as quickly as I can get the chance to because I thought she was great as Cuffee, the bouncer at Stagecoach Mary’s place who joins Love and the gang and she certainly holds her own on screen amongst the cast. While I was obviously entertained by the film, there is one gripe that I have….and it’s a nitpick and related to the finale which I won’t spoil, I just wish we had more time as a viewer to digest and savour.

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VERDICT

The Harder They Fall is a western with an overabundance of style, confidently directed by Samuel with a great ensemble. Arguably the most fun I’ve had at the cinema this year.

★★★★