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‘The Harder They Fall’ reviews: ‘Dynamite’ Netflix Western features a ‘stellar’ Black cast

GoldDerby
GoldDerby
 2021-10-22
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Six months after she stole the Oscars with her epic walk through Union Station, Regina King brings her trademark charisma back to the screen in Netflix ’s “ The Harder They Fall .” Directed and co-written by Jeymes Samuel Boaz Yakin shares screenwriting credit – “The Harder They Fall” is a Western set in the postbellum period that pits Jonathan Majors against Idris Elba in a revenge narrative. Samuel has assembled an impressive cast that also includes Zazie Beetz , Delroy Lindo , Lakeith Stanfield , Edi Gathegi , and others. It opened in a limited theatrical release on October 22 in advance of its November 3 bow on the streaming service.

Inspired by the real-life historical figure Nat Love , “The Harder They Fall” has been earning the admiration of critics. The film currently has a Metacritic score of 70 based on 21 reviews as of this writing, which indicates “generally favorable reviews.” On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 87% fresh score based on 52 reviews, with most critics agreeing it “fills its well-worn template with style, energy, and a fantastic cast.”

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Most of the reviews emphasize the film’s tone and its impeccable performances. “The Harder They Fall” is “a dynamite Black Western,” “flip, fun, flashy” and a “wildly entertaining reimagining of American history.” In the starring role of Nat Love, Majors brings his “gung-ho swagger” and “winning presence,” Lindo is “every bit as good” as the part promises, Beetz is “magnetic,” and Danielle Deadwyler “delightful.” Of its crafts, reviewers singled out Antoinette Messam ‘s “rich costume design” and the “finesse” of the film’s “percussive funk score” – Samuel is a musician, after all, known by his stage name The Bullitts , and the film’s producers also include none other than Jay-Z .

“The Harder They Fall” boasts no shortage of awards-minted talent. In addition to King, who took home the Oscar for “If Beale Street Could Talk” two years ago, Stanfield earned an Oscar nomination this year for “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Elba has one SAG Award for film for “Beasts of No Nation,” Delroy has three SAG film ensemble bids, and Majors has two. This starry cast is in the running for a SAG nomination for its film ensemble in 12th place in our overall odds, but Expert journalist Jazz Tangcay (Variety) currently predicts it will crack the top five.

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See excerpts from some of the critics’ reviews below, and join the discussion on “The Harder They Fall” and more with your fellow movie fans and industry insiders in our forums .

Whelan Barzey ( Empire ): “As exciting as the casting is Samuel’s style, full of verve and imagination… However, marvelling (or lowering in fear) at ‘The Harder They Fall’s’ ultra-stylized gore would be to miss its true focus: to shine a light on Black Americans in the Old West so often marginalised in Hollywood history… Samuel presents a dynamic version of the Western fit for modern-day consumption.”

David Ehrlich ( IndieWire ): “This is the biggest, poppiest, and most star-studded Black Western ever made – a film whose rare signs of whiteness are only ever 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.”

Leslie Felperin ( Hollywood Reporter ) “‘The Harder They Fall’ represents rambunctious, swaggering action-adventure set in the Old West but given something of a hip and happening look and feel thanks to a focus on Black characters inspired by historical figures, stylish craft contributions and inspired needle drops… The cast has chemistry in all directions, between the romantic matchups but just as much among the menfolk as they bicker, bond and berate one another.”

Stephanie Zacharek ( Time ): “‘The Harder They Fall’ is fueled by Tarantino-style energy and grim wit, and if nothing else, it’s a spectacle – those glossy, muscular horses, and the gorgeous people riding them, are almost enough to carry a movie by themselves. But this picture works so hard at entertaining us that it strips its own gears; its churning style can’t quite keep the story going. Samuel is also working with so many characters here that not all are drawn as sharply as they might be.”

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