REVIEW: ‘Harder they Fall’ is full of western fun

Those who loved the scene in Django Unchained where a shootout had a 2Pac song playing over it should find a lot of enjoyment in this Netflix feature.

The protagonist of “They Fall” is Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), an outlaw who saw his parents killed in front of him as a young boy. Since then, he’s made it a priority to take out the people responsible, and by the time the movie gets underway, there’s just one left.

That individual is the dangerous criminal Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), who at the beginning of the film is imprisoned. However, during a train stick-up, Rufus is released. With news of Buck’s release spreading, Nat decides to go after the criminal and his gang with a group of outlaws he’s friends with.

“Harder they Fall” is an exciting, refreshing take on the western genre. It includes many of the things audiences love about westerns, while having its own unique spin.

There’s a hero who is often a loner, an antagonist with a lot of power, and a town with a single road set to be the stage of the finale. All of those elements and more are showcased with a vibrant aesthetic and explosive action.

In a way, the movie is reminiscent of an anime, as it boasts eccentric characters, blood-soaked battles and a notably rich color palette. The result is a cinematic experience with a lot of fun to offer audiences.

Despite the entertainment value making the picture worth watching, though, it does fall short in the story department. The film has a runtime over two and a half hours, and it’s quite noticeable.

harderfall2
Courtesy Netflix.

The first half of the movie feels feels longer than it needs to be, with a pace that’s far too slow and an overabundance of scenes to set up the stage. Not that westerns can’t be grand epics, but “Harder they Fall” has a pretty straightforward revenge plot that could certainly have been streamlined.

Character-wise, the lead protagonist and antagonist are the highlights. Elba’s Rufus Buck is a quiet, reserved villain who has a dangerous, menacing aura, reminiscent of Bane from 2012’s “Dark Knight Rises.”

Elba commands the screen in his scenes, and he makes Buck feel like a true threat.

Major’s Nat Love, meanwhile, is a superb outlaw-with-a-heart-of-gold type character. He doesn’t play by the rules and is a dangerous, rugged gunman in the west, but there’s a righteousness to his personality.

Majors, who was fantastic in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” in 2019, is great once again. He gives the character the right amount of confidence and attitude for a cowboy while capturing the drive his character has for revenge.

With a solid supporting cast, along with an enjoyable hip hop soundtrack and its other strengths, “Harder They Fall” is definitely worth putting on. It is dragged down a bit by its narrative structure, but remains an enjoyable action flick. 3.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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