Movie Review:Star-studded ensemble carries period drama

Michael Foster-Sanders
senior producer

American history tends to minimize native, enslaved and immigrant contributions to this country. Especially when it comes to the era of the Wild West. 

Television and cinema played a big part in whitewashing the contribution of Black cowboys by only showing white ones while taking real-life exploits and applying them to fictional characters like “The Lone Ranger” did with the real-life first Black U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves — who plays a role in Netflix’s fictional Black cowboy tale “The Harder They Fall.” 

But does “The Harder They Fall” survive the high noon showdown or take a trip to the cinema graveyard because it’s not quick on the draw?

It rides off in the sunset, but not without taking a bullet to the shoulder.

In any great cowboy story, it has to have a tale of misjustice or revenge to drive the hero/antihero on their quest for justice, and “The Harder They Fall”  is no different. Nat Love has his childhood destroyed by the ruthless Rufus Buck and his gang when they come into his home and kill his mother and father for unknown reasons. 

The amazing Johnathan Majors plays adult Love and becomes an outlaw cowboy. He’s dedicated his life to eradicating the demons of his past from the Rufus Buck Gang. When Love receives news that his childhood demon can be exorcised once and for all, Love signs up for a suicide mission that he might not come back from. 

The reason why these movies work isn’t the story. Once a person has seen five cowboy movies, they have seen them all. It’s the all-star cast put together whose passion oozes through the screen when portraying these real-life figures of Black American history to bring awareness to them even though this is a fictional tale. Idris Elba embodies the ruthless Rufus Buck and should be in a Western movie hall of fame of villains. His queen, Treacherous Trudy Smith — played by the Oscar award-winning Regina King — lives up to her nickname when it comes to protecting Buck.

Lakeith Stansfield is a force to be reckoned with as Cherokee Bill, the cunning quickdraw with equally deadly monologues. He will leave viewers with their jaw dropped in every scene he’s in because he steals the show. Anchoring the cast is veteran actor Delroy Lindo as lawman Bass Reeves, who gives a seasoned vibe to the old west.

As great as this movie is, it does have its flaws. Western Movies should never be shot digitally. It gives this movie too clean of a look for the period it’s set in. The sets left much to be desired as well due to them looking cheap and freshly built, not having a weathered look like a town in the desert would have from being in the hot sun. The score is a major issue due to the non-traditional sound and its fusion of hip-hop, reggae and Western. But, when traditional Western sounds, choirs and guitars are used, it is awesome.

Will “The Harder They Fall” go down as a hall of fame Western? No, but it doesn’t fail as a great time for movie nights and future rewatching.