Director: Jeymes Samuel
Screenplay: Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin
Producers: Shawn Carter and James Lassiter
Starring: Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Delroy Lindo
Year: 2021
Country: USA
Certification: Rated R
Duration: 130mins
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This year’s London Film Festival kicked off with a gala premiere of The Harder They Fall, a western film with attitude. This debut feature for director, Jeymes Samuel, was produced by Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter and James Lassiter, and it stars some great actors who so happen to be mainly black. It is a beast of a movie with some serious swagger.
Starting from the opening scene, as Idris Elba’s Rufus Buck struts into a peaceful family home and lays down the law, this film means business with unapologetic violence. It delivers a physical assault on the senses, with sound, colour, motion and mayhem dialled to eleven. What a ride.
The plot is easy to follow: with his father and mother killed so brutally early on the film, it is no surprise that Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) is consumed with extracting revenge on the perpetrator, Rufus Buck (Elba).  Both are joined by an outstanding cast playing some key characters, such as: Trudy Smith (Regina King), Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), Stagecoach Mary Fields (Zazie Beetz), Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo),  Bill Picket (Edi Gathegi), Cuffee (Danielle Deadwyler) and Jim Beckwith (RJ Cyler) – They all take terrific turns as the baddie of the moment in what director Samuels described as the Avengers of Westerns. These characters are actually based on real people whose stories and actual existence had been at best muted, up until now.
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As a movie, The Harder They Fall doesn’t stray too far from the usual tropes of: outlaws, bank robbery, train heists, gun fights and saloon trysts, but it differs from the typical modern western with over the top graphic violence and a tongue in cheek approach to redefining the genre from a black experience point of view. The film doesn’t disappoint with its treatment of race and racial stereotypes turned-upside-down – there was literally white town for goodness sake. At its soul is a narrative of black pride, set in black towns, with black lawmen and outlaws, townspeople  and outsiders. Finally, it also benefits from the Black Panther effect, as a first of its kind treatment of this genre and topic at scale.

What about the killer sound track? A diverse palette featuring multiple genres covering hip-hop, blues, Jazz and dancehall reggae. A dramatic lady fight between King and Beetz is set to some rah-rah music by Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and a fitting classical piece adorns the operatic flourish  of a  denouement with the tragic main characters played by Elba and Majors. I cant say enough about the brave directorial debut of palpable new voice in the game.  The BFI London Film Festival did well to select such a fitting and kick-ass film to restart the 65th festival, complete with the usual razzmatazz of a major film premiere. It was a great experience, great atmosphere with a packed audience. Pandemic – what pandemic?
The Harder They Fall
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