As "The Harder They Fall" (2021 release; 137 min.) opens, we are reminded that "Although These Events Are Fictional, These. People. Existed." We watch as a Black family in the remote West sometime in the mid-to-late 19th century is about to have dinner, someone knocks on the door. We have no idea who this is, but the guy goes on to brutally murder the parents in front of the young son, who for good measure gets a cross cut into his forehead. We then go to "Salinas, Texas, Some Time Later", and the young boy is now a grown man (still with the cross scar on his forehead), named Nat Love, and part of the Love gang. He is searching for the killer of his parents, and it's not long before all hell breaks loose... At this point we are 10 min into the film.
Couple of comments: this is the feature-length debut of British musician Jaymes Samuel (brother of singer Seal). Jay-Z is credited as one of the producers. Samuel brings us a Black western, in which there is very little room for whites (the only sequence with whites is the train heist). The movie is highly stylish and very visual. I had no idea of any of this when I walked into the theater. I was simply looking for a good movie, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it all. The movie features an all-star cast of Black performers, none more so than Jonathan Majors ("The Last Black Man in San Francisco"), as Nat Love, although Regina King (as one of the many bad-asses in the movie) also shines in her own way. Please note that the violence is in your face, if not over the top, almost Quentin Tarantino-like. In fact, this film reminded me on more than one occasion of the great Tarantino, and that's saying something. The movie features a bunch of great song placements and I can't wait for the soundtrack (which will be released in early November). The only criticism I have is that the film's running time is unnecessarily long at 2 hrs. 20 min and could easily have been trimmed by 20-30 minutes without losing anything essential, but in the end it's a minor quibble.
"The Harder They Fall" premiered in early October at the London film festival to immediate acclaim. There is a reason why this film currently is rated 87% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was released in theaters this weekend for a limited run before it moves to Netflix in early November. Thankfully my art-house theater here in Cincinnati had it on its lineup. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was not attended well (exactly 2 people including myself), which is a shame. If you are in the mood for a highly stylish, at times Tarantino-reminding Black western, I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater (while you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.