'The Harder They Fall' review: Netflix film rewrites the story of the Old West with a terrific all-black cast (Spoilers)

Still from Netflix's The Harder They Fall starring Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba (Image via Netflix)
Still from Netflix's The Harder They Fall starring Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba (Image via Netflix)

The reimagined story of the Old West, The Harder They Fall, just dropped and Netflix and it's as thrilling as the trailer suggested.

A fictional film drawing inspiration from real-life characters, The Harder They Fall is Jeymes Samuel's directorial debut. The plot revolves around two rival gangs in the West when the release of a gang leader prompts a clash between them. A story of revenge and gunplay, The Harder They Fall is bound to evoke nostalgia with its Western setting.

The Harder They Fall has an all-black cast including Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Regina King, Zazie Beets, Delroy Lindo, LaKeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, Deon Cole, and Damon Wayans Jr. It aims to change how Western movies are perceived.

'The Harder They Fall': Summary and review



The Harder They Fall opens with the sentiment of 'these people existed,' setting the tone for how the key characters are real-life people. The film starts with Nat (Jonathan Majors) as a young boy whose life is turned upside down when Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) murders his parents and carves a cross in Nat's forehead.

A few years later, Nat leads his gang of outlaws who hassle others to do some good. Rufus, of course, has been jailed for his crimes but has a plan to escape. A group of bandits, a.k.a Rufus' gang - Cherokee Bill (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trudy Smith (Regina King) - set the premise for the big escape when they hijacked the train carrying Rufus.

Their plan was successful as they returned to Redwood, now run by Rufus' former associate Wiley Escoe. Rufus eventually takes over and the town is back to its original nightmare.

News travels fast in small towns, so Nat is aware that Rufus is free. He plans to stage an arrest of Rufus with his romantic interest, Mary Fields (Zazie Beetz). Nat doesn't want to involve his hand for this revenge.

Everyone arrives at Redwood for the epic showdown as Rufus' people kidnap Mary. Between all the chaos, Nat comes face-to-face with Rufus, where the latter's sob story is told. This ends with Rufus revealing that they share the same father.

He also mentions his motive to seek revenge from their father was because his mother was mistreated. This is why Rufus wanted to drive Nat into being an outlaw. The scar was Rufus' way of recognizing Nat later. After that, Nat shoots Rufus dead.

The film ends with Nat's gang burying Rufus' people alongside another grave marked 'Nat Love.' The empty grave is to declare to the world that Nat is dead. This will allow him to leave town with Mary and start a new life.


Jeymes Samuel's The Harder They Fall is not a film stressing historical accuracy or realism but is diversifying the genre. The high-style Western with pools of blood and an eclectic soundtrack is a story of revenge.

The Harder They Fall is not an overtly political film because of its representation. But it still raises some pertinent conversation about the West being colonized by white cowboys raiding Indian land.

The leads - Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beets and Regina King - delivered a brilliant performance. But the real show-stealer is LaKeith Stanfield as Cherokee Bill. The actor brings the character to life with his charismatic performance, chewing on his cheroot and delivering speeches that feel reminiscent of movies like Django Unchained.

Still from Netflix's The Harder They Fall (Image via NETFLIX)
Still from Netflix's The Harder They Fall (Image via NETFLIX)

The Harder They Fall stunning costume design by Antoinette Messam subtly speaks for itself in the broader context of the African diaspora. The violence and the showdowns feel like a mix of Samuel's favorite influences - Tarantino and Leone.

The Harder They Fall is a film about real people from the past with a touch of modern energy. It is a story that needs to be told about the legends oft-forgotten in the pages of history. The film leaves room for others to expand on the unique story and provides a much-needed push for cast diversity in Hollywood.

The Harder They Fall is streaming on Netflix.

This article reflects the opinions of the writer.

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Edited by Srijan Sen