As Australia finds itself opening up after countless months spent in lockdown, local film buffs are likely on track to flock to the cinema to escape the burgeoning summer months. Luckily, there’s plenty on offer, with nascent Western film The Harder They Fall making its arrival when we need it most.
Currently out in select theatres, The Harder They Fall (not to be confused with the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name from the ’50s), will make its debut on Netflix on November 4th in a boon for movie-buffs, couch-critics, and lovers of cinemas.
First announced back in July of 2019, The Harder They Fall comes with plenty of anticipation behind it. Directed by Jeymes Samuel (better known as The Bullitts) in his directorial debut, the film stars Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, and Regina King, and features production and musical contributions from Jay-Z.
A self-described Western, the film sees outlaw Nat Love (Majors) discovering that his sworn enemy Rufus Buck (Elba) is being released from prison. Incensed, he seeks to reunite his old gang in an effort to track down buck and bestow upon him the revenge he is deserving of.
Though Westerns are arguably a genre not exactly highlighted by Hollywood these days, director Jeymes Samuel explains that he grew up watching the iconic genre. However, Samuel always felt that while the films themselves were understandable classics, iconic leading men such as John Wayne or Clint Eastwood seemed to steal the show with their almost predictable storylines. As Samuel notes, the films were always missing something, or more specifically, someones.
“Traditionally in Hollywood westerns, Black people, Chinese people, other people of colour, and women were always shown as subservient,” he explains.
Realising that the Westerns he idolised reflected an age of Hollywood were they weren’t ready to face or embrace the hard truths of the Old West in the mid-1800s, Samuel looked deeper, noting that a third of Cowboys in the post-slavery era were Black, and even more hardened and worthy of a leading role than the likes of John Wayne.
“I loved Westerns so much growing up that when they invented Google I began to research all these great characters that we never got to learn about through movies,” Samuel recalls.
Obsesses with the idea of Black men and women who risked their lives every day for their own dreams, Samuel collected stories of these people from the Old West and weaved their essence and purpose into one of the most vital screenplays of recent times. Recruiting the likes of Jay-Z and James Lassiter as producers, the film soon became The Harder They Fall.
“Only Jeymes could have directed this,” Lassiter would explain. “Because from top to bottom, he conceived everything. He knew how he wanted it to look, he knew how he wanted music integrated, he had very specific ideas regarding casting and these things were all very thought out.”
“When I heard Jeymes’ take on this revenge story I knew it was much more than a single genre story,” he concluded.
Already receiving rave reviews from critics since its debut at the BFI London Film Festival in early October, The Harder They Fall has all the hallmarks of a classic Western, albeit focusing on stories often largely ignored from a historical point of view.
With theatres finally opening up again the wake of mass lockdowns across the country, now is the time to embark upon a bit of well-earned escapism, revisiting one of the most famed genres in cinematic history and experiencing the majesty of The Harder They Fall on the big screen.
While it releases on Netflix on November 4th, it’s the sort of film that’s built for the big screen, with tickets to sessions on sale now.