The Harder They Fall is the Western we never knew we needed. Writer/director Jeymes Samuel’s debut feature is an eminently re-watchable, funny, entertaining and scathingly violent old-fashioned Western with a very modern style. Samuel borrows unabashedly from many others, including Tarantino and Leone, but the total package is uniquely stitched together with a bravado that is all at once awe-inspiring and terribly risky. But he pulls it off, giving us a slick, confident and full of swagger story chock full of characters that are not only great fun to spend time with, but are all kinds of badass.
It helps that the cast is beyond insane: Regina King, Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, LaKeith Stanfield and Delroy Lindo—no wonder Samuel was so confident. Every single actor is at his or her finest here, Beetz and King particularly finding their characters with ease and delivering with gusto. Every character is based on a real person, and The Harder They Fall revels in its own history, paying homage to the oft-forgotten black pioneers and cowboys who played a large part in settling the West—along with the criminals who helped define it.
While The Harder They Fall is not a social commentary (race is never a spoken issue), Samuel does poke fun more than once at the white/black status quo. There is a Spike Lee-style irreverence that imbues The Harder They Fall with an underlying purpose, but it never once diminishes the quality of the storytelling, acting or phenomenal production design, all of which are exceptional. If you like Westerns, especially ones with humor, personality and style, The Harder They Fall is unmissable. Do not sleep on this film, it is one of the best of the year and available on Netflix now.