The Harder They Fall in such a manner, because I want you to know when I tell you I loved it that this carries some weight.
So I loved it. It's not just the fact that writer-director Jeymes Samuel has fore-fronted a cast that looks nothing like your typical Western cast of yore -- there are plenty of pink-skinned second-players but the film stars in all its leading roles black faces, gorgeous black faces, belonging to Idris Elba, Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz, and my king Jonathan Majors. It's not just that I am looking at these people doing things I haven't been given the chance to see them do before that livens up the proceedings -- but that don't hurt. Like a zap from the eyeball straight to the funny bone -- that's how science works, right -- there's just a thrill, keen and electric, in the singularity of it. A freshness that can't be ignored. We want our meals fresh -- why not our movies, dagnabit?
In the opening scene of The Harder They Fall some white dude starts to say a word that begins with the letter "N" and Regina King shoots him dead before he can get past the syllable, making a joke that she doesn't care where he was going with it from there -- an "N" is too much already. And the movie takes that attitude onward -- this story ain't about that shit, and it allows its black characters to become so very much more. They're bad bad bad guy villains, they're romantic leads and avengers, they're sidekicks and ol' stalwarts and all the Western tropes we've seen a million times before. Just black. It's not that racism isn't there; it's just that these people have lives and adventures to lead that have nothing to do with it. And I'll be good goddamned if that doesn't make the picture just feel alive from someplace deep within it, with the blood coursing up and out from there.
The cast feels it too, and they sing appropriately -- these are some of the most relaxed movie star turns i've seen from this stable of fine movie stars, everybody leaning into aspects of themselves they've never quite gotten to muss with while also complimenting all of our favorite bits about them. (Lakeith as a sad quiet killing machine and Regina King as a no-nonsense terror are of particular delight.) And you better believe me when I tell you the last act of this movie's a trip, a culmination of double and triple-crosses that takes the usual Western Town shoot-out and makes it hit notes of absolute action fantastic pleasure. You really care about these folks by the time the bloodbath starts washing down the main street's thoroughfare, and so every zing of a bullet stings deep. And I'll be damned if I'm not crying to be signed up for ten more of these movies now.
The Harder They Fall is streaming on Netflix right now! Go'n git!