I am bringing this movie to you guys very last minute so I apologize but it took a lot of initial off-handed pressuring from my family before my attention finally turned to “The Harder They Fall”. So I went in because of all the requests on my doorstep but I ended up staying all the way through thanks to one man.
I cannot express how big of a relief it is to watch a director at work who actually knows what the hell they’re doing. Samuel clearly did some studying behind the scenes as his emulation of other westerns and directors is made apparent but while he sticks to certain hallmarks of the genre, the kinetic energy he sprinkled on this witty homage mixed with Tarantino overkill revels in its own freedom of pastiche. and not once does anything feel out of place.
It doesn't hurt that this is one of the more impressive casts of A-list talent I've seen in a while. Great chemistry with each other and their characters arcs overlap each other and come to life brilliantly.
Every crevice of the production and set design is treated with the utmost of care despite the obvious lack of grime and dirt, glistening in the voluptuous beauty of cinematographers who actually know how to change angles, shift focus or view or hold onto images to turn every scene into mesmerizing stardust. This normally worn-out template is reinvigorated almost instantly with a presentation that’s not afraid to laugh at itself every once in a while and an imperfect script that plays a lot on both the admirations and frustrations people may have with the genres. Editing is gripping, costumes are decent and while the culture clash of stylized action and modern-day hip-hop reggae soundtrack is literally right up to your face and disorienting, truth be told it didn’t take too long for me to get used to it.
Lots of westerns deal with the themes about earnest romance, family tragedies, a quasi-mythological story about how violence just breeds more violence or just trying to get by; hell, anybody can do it. And yet I feel more strongly about the portrayal of these themes here because of how brutally honest the writing has them play out. Ancestral/generational violence is difficult to break out of and the personal touch on that ending shines another light on a damning truth that has plagued the Black Community for, what feels like, an eternity. It’s as simple as you can make it but the simple route is the best.
Now I could definitely see the reaches of a larger world within these frames that the story doesn’t entirely hint at outside of the ending but I’m not sure I really want to. It fits moderately well as just a one-off story.
There are some storytelling choices that come off as counter-intuitive, the story obviously isn’t groundbreaking for the genre and BOY, they probably could’ve trimmed the fat from the pacing here if only for a little bit.
Now I can see why people wanted me to see this and it definitely ain’t bad. Not a bad way to close out 2021, eh?