When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being released from prison he rounds up his gang (Zazie Beetz, RJ Cyler, Edi Gathegi) to track Rufus down and seek revenge. As Buck assembles his gang (Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield), the two outlaws are set on a collision course...
For much of 'The Harder They Fall', you're taken in more by the incredible visuals that Jeymes Samuel and cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare Jr. have pulled off than anything else. No doubt that 'The Harder They Fall' is probably going to be a regular fixture on movie stills Instagrams and Twitter accounts long after its release on Netflix. One can only imagine how good it'd all look in a cinema.
The colours on the storefronts and the cowboy's costumes are bright, luminous, and the shine off their pistols and bullets means 'The Harder They Fall' is a feast for the eyes. The soundtrack, lovingly crafted together with some excellent needle drops, ties the experience together and makes it seem like a two-hour-plus music video. There's a story there, yes, but you could just as easily enjoy the ambience of 'The Harder They Fall' as anything else. Indeed, the story is quite unnecessarily convoluted for a Western, not to mention it being not at all what one could call original. Sure, having a majority black cast in a Western is unique - and one scene highlights the glaring difference between the white part of its world, versus the one it mostly inhabits - but the story doesn't have enough weight to it for it to be all that intriguing. The action is well-paced, however, and it's clear that Jeymes Samuel is more than capable of editing and pacing proceedings in a way that not only makes sense, but has a natural sense of rhythm to them.
Still, it's a crying shame that the story and script is such a letdown because the cast assembled for 'The Harder They Fall' is truly magnificent. Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield, Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Delroy Lindo, Zazie Beetz - any one of these actors would have enough screen presence to power an entire movie on their own, let alone all of them assembled together. Samuel's direction gives each of them their own visual motif and spotlight - Regina King proudly sits atop a horse and brings a speeding train to a halt by standing silent in front of it, Idris Elba's black hat takes up the screen, Delroy Lindo evokes imagery of old lawmen of the past.
Yet, for all of this, 'The Harder They Fall' has a flat story and script that just seems to undercut all this at every turn. Whether it's the unnecessary twists, the clunky dialogue, or even just how the story isn't nearly as clever as it think it is, 'The Harder They Fall' suffers from a weak script. The balance is in how good it all looks, and how stylishly it's all pulled together. If more time had been given to the script as it had to everything else, this could have been incredible. As it stands, 'The Harder They Fall' has style and cool left to spare, but not enough story to make up for it.