The guns go blam blam indeed…
Opening up the 65th London Film Festival with an extremely loud bang, Jeymes Samuel’s stylish western The Harder They Fall is sure to leave a long lasting impact on audiences.
After witnessing the cold-blooded murder of his parents at 10 years old, and being left with the scar of a crucifix on his forehead from the experience, bandit Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) has spent years tracking down and killing the people responsible. He’s finally finished, and ready to settle down with his one time love, Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beets) – only to discover that the man responsible for murdering his parents, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) has been released from prison. Once and for all, he decides it is time to settle to score and avenge his parents.
The entirety of the cast is uniformly excellent, but special mention must go to both Beets, and Regina King as Trudy King. Both are strong women, rarely seen in the Western genre. For me, the scenes where they shared the screen were the highlight of the entire film.
The use of music occasionally gives The Harder They Fall the feel of a musical. Characters often sing to each other to hype each other up. The focus on music is unsurprising given that the film is produced by Shawn Carter (more famously known as Jay-Z), and directed by Samuels (AKA The Bullitts). Samuels even composed music for the soundtrack himself. This postmodern clash of hip hop, R&B music against the backdrop of cowboys is reminiscent of Baz Lurrhman’s The Great Gatsby, which both Carter and Samuels also worked on.
The film is very violent, in an almost cartoony way. It’s very funny in places, and while it edges into melodrama more than once, I was never not entertained. It’s by far the loudest movie this reviewer has ever had the pleasure of seeing (and I saw Gangster Squad!), but that really adds to the atmosphere of the film.
This was an excellent opening to the London Film Festival, and I hope that it picks up a strong audience when it premieres on Netflix next month.