From Portside Culture <[email protected]>
Subject ‘The Harder They Fall’: A Big, Star-Studded Black Western
Date November 17, 2021 1:00 AM
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
[“The Harder They Fall”, the dynamic black western, corrects
the historical record. Manifest Destiny may have been a uniquely
Anglo-Saxon concept, but white people weren’t alone in the westward
expansion that followed the Civil War.] [[link removed]]


[[link removed]]


David Erlich
October 6, 2021
[[link removed]]

[[link removed]]
[[link removed]]
* [[link removed]]

_ “The Harder They Fall”, the dynamic black western, corrects the
historical record. Manifest Destiny may have been a uniquely
Anglo-Saxon concept, but white people weren’t alone in the westward
expansion that followed the Civil War. _

"The Harder They Fall" - Zazie Beetz and Jonathan Majors, David
Lee/Netflix © 2021


Jeymes Samuel’s “The Harder They Fall
[[link removed]]” is a dynamite
Black Western that doesn’t waste any time putting its cards on the
table. “While the events of this story are fictional…” reads the
opening scrawl, “These. People. Existed.” The point couldn’t be
clearer: This tense, propulsive, and ultra-glossy Netflix
[[link removed]] oater might lay a thick new
Jay-Z track over the opening credits (of a film that he also produced)
and assemble an Avengers-worthy team of obscure Black icons from
across the entire 19th century into a single explosive shootout, but
Samuel has little interest in letting his film be ascribed to fantasy
or lumped in with the rest of its genre’s revisionist streak.

On the contrary, “The Harder They Fall” seems determined to
correct the record. Manifest Destiny may have been a uniquely
Anglo-Saxon concept, but white people weren’t alone in the westward
expansion that followed the Civil War — no matter what the vast
majority of movies about that time period would have you believe. In
fact, many historians estimate that more than a quarter of the era’s
cowboys were Black, and so the idea of making a straightforward
Western about two rival factions of African-American outlaws
shouldn’t require any stretch of the imagination. This isn’t
“Hamilton.” A revenge saga about Nat Love (Jonathan Majors)
hunting down the ruthless man who killed his parents (Idris Elba)
isn’t _woke_ just because Hollywood has been sleepwalking through
the same blinkered vision of the past since the glory days of John

Of course even Ford once made a Western starring Woody Strode, but
Samuel’s film doesn’t grapple with race to the same degree as
precursors like “Sergeant Rutledge” or Sidney Poitier’s “Buck
and the Preacher.” Likewise, “The Harder They Fall” wears its
modernity with a much lighter touch than Blaxploitation classics like
“Thomasine and Bushrod” or “The Legend of Black Charley.”
While the real Cherokee Bill probably never called any of his victims
a “motherfucker,” and the actual Stagecoach Mary was too busy
delivering the mail with a loaded shotgun under each arm to ever sing
glittery R&B slow jams at the brothel she owns in this movie, such
occasional flourishes of 21st century flash do more to bring the past
into the present than they do the present into the past. They’re
accents, not asterisks (which isn’t to diminish the magic of an
original soundtrack that also includes new songs by Ms. Lauryn Hill,
Alice Smith, Samuel’s brother Seal, and the director himself, who
additionally wrote the film’s percussive funk score and deploys all
of this music with a finesse that only makes you listen closer to the
film’s historical overtones).

This is the biggest, poppiest, and most star-studded Black Western
ever made — a film whose rare signs of whiteness are only used for
comedic effect — and its ontological and historical power alike are
both rooted in the fact that it refuses to justify its conceit beyond
those opening 10 seconds. These people existed, in one form or
another, and it’s a lot of fun to see which of them still do by the
time they’ve all run out of bullets.

The plot is the stuff of a standard-issue Western from the moment it
kicks off, but there’s a good reason why the genre has always
leathered so well (Samuel and co-writer Boaz Yakin have one big twist
up their sleeve, which they save for so long that its impact has faded
by the time it comes out). It starts by taking the legend of Nat Love
in an unexpected direction, as “The Harder They Fall” borrows the
slave-turned-cowboy’s famous defiant streak and scrambles it into a
very different origin story. Here, Nat is a young boy whose idyllic
home life on the prairie is turned upside down when mean ol’ Rufus
Buck (Elba) busts down the door, murders both of his parents in cold
blood, and carves a cross into Nat’s forehead.

When the story picks up some years later, Nat (Majors) has become the
head of his own band of outlaws — outlaws who rassle up other
outlaws in order to do some good for the world as they wait to settle
the score with the baddest man around. Rufus has been in jail ever
since a deputy U.S. marshal put him there (Bass Reeves is played by a
pistol-slinging Delroy Lindo, here reuniting with his “Da 5
Bloods” co-star Majors for a part that’s every bit as good as “a
pistol-slinging Delroy Lindo” makes it sound), but there’s a plan
afoot to bust him out.

Enter: The rest of the Rufus Buck gang, a fashion-forward group of
bandits that includes the infamous Cherokee Bill (a sly Lakeith
Stanfield) and the mysterious Trudy Smith (Regina King), whose
kill-or-be-killed philosophy obscures whatever feelings she might
harbor for the boss. First they’re going to go all “Con Air” on
the passenger train that’s transporting Rufus from one prison to
another, and then they’re going to set up shop in the town he used
to call home; the plan is to make Redwood into a Mecca for Black
people west of the Mississippi, even if they have to do it through
fear alone. Meanwhile, the only fear that ruffles Stagecoach Mary (a
magnetic Zazie Beetz, sporting a top hat so well it could
single-handedly bring them back in style) is the fear that her
on-again, punched-again boyfriend Nat might leave her — again — to
settle the score with Rufus. She might just have to go with him to get
the job done.

If that’s basically all there is to it, “The Harder They Fall”
is less about the _what_ of it all than the _how_. And it’s a
good thing too, as that emphasis becomes a real saving grace for a
movie whose hero is more of a mood than a man (if also not enough of a
mood to carry the movie on the strength of his glint). Majors throws
his entire body into the role with a gung-ho swagger that holds the
story together, but the hyper-charismatic star isn’t given much to
play beyond Nat’s cool bloodlust.

Samuel’s film hitches its wagon to the idea that all of its
characters — “good” and “bad” — have to kill the demon
inside of themselves if they ever hope to live in peace, but Nat
hardly seems conflicted about his vendetta. He knows who put the devil
inside his gut and cut the Lord onto his forehead, and that’s good
enough for him. If that’s not always good enough to keep “The
Harder They Fall” standing on its feet throughout a sluggish middle
section, Nat’s buddies keep it from falling over completely.
Danielle Deadwyler brings all kinds of clenched strength to the
androgynous powerhouse Cuffee, while RJ Cyler of “Me and Earl and
the Dying Girl” repute injects a hotheaded childishness to his
quick-draw rivalry with Cherokee Bill. Neither of these characters
resonate all that deeply, and yet both of them (and several others)
pop off the screen with enough flair to make you feel like you’ve
always known their nameIt’s hard to imagine how Elba has new shades
of big screen villainy left to share after the likes of “Cats” and
“Star Trek Beyond,” but the weary Rufus has more grit than the
rest of them combined. It takes a certain kind of man to spring out of
jail and then saunter down the main street of Redwood without changing
out of his prison stripes. Elba conveys more with a half-shut eyelid
than most actors can with their entire bodies, and he puts just enough
top-serve on every shot to keep us guessing; when Rufus murders an
innocent townsperson without so much as twitching a muscle, some part
of you might swear it noticed his disembodied zen betraying a deeper
purpose. Also, he has a pair of golden pistols, which are extremely
cool even when he’s not spinning them around on his fingers.

“The Harder They Fall” is the work of someone who understands high
style as its own form of substance, and it’s filled with similarly
neat details that bleed into the bigger picture. Some, like the
whitest town you’ll ever see, are good for a quick visual gag.
Others, such as Trudy’s Fulani hoop earrings (among so many other
aspects of Antoinette Messam’s rich costume design) subtly locate
these characters in the broader context of the African diaspora. Best
of all are the bursts of grindhouse violence that build to a climactic
martial-arts throwdown and allow Samuel to remix his favorite
influences into the film without straining its relationship to a
specific past.

One day, fingers crossed, it will be illegal to shoot a Western on
digital, but even during its most plastic or heightened moments “The
Harder They Come” always manages to keep at least one foot on the
ground. This is a film about real people, and — for all of its
modern energy — Samuel’s debut stays connected to the soil where
their legends were born.

_“The Harder They Fall” premiered at the 2021 London Film
Festival [[link removed]]. Netflix
released it in select theaters on Friday, October 22, with
a streaming release on  November 3._

[[link removed]]
[[link removed]]
* [[link removed]]







Submit via web [[link removed]]
Submit via email
Frequently asked questions [[link removed]]
Manage subscription [[link removed]]
Visit [[link removed]]

Twitter [[link removed]]

Facebook [[link removed]]



[link removed]

To unsubscribe from the xxxxxx list, click the following link:
[link removed]
Screenshot of the email generated on import

Message Analysis

  • Sender: Portside
  • Political Party: n/a
  • Country: United States
  • State/Locality: n/a
  • Office: n/a
  • Email Providers:
    • L-Soft LISTSERV