Day Eleven: The Harder They Fall (2021) (March of the Movies 2023)

Westerns are a genre of film that my grandfather was quite fond of. John Wayne was his hero, and he made that very apparent with his children. Personally, westerns are something of a relic of the past for me—interesting to study, but not a true passion. Still, the ones I have watched have generally been all right, especially those that deal with the inner struggle of the central character. From the very first trailer I saw of The Harder They Fall, I knew it was something worth remembering.

Plus, Lakeith Stanfield is wonderful. I’ll watch just about anything he has a prominent role in.

Copy-Paste Synopsis

“Gunning for revenge, outlaw Nat Love saddles up with his gang to take down enemy Rufus Buck, a ruthless crime boss who just got sprung from prison.”


Actual Review

For some time, I wasn’t entirely sold on this. From the very beginning, the rigidity of the common
Western was easy to predict. Through this harrowing intro, however, the audience is treated to an immediate personal motivation with the lead actor. Settling into a stylish, if not noisy take on cowboy action, there is a clear emphasis on holding everything in until it cannot any longer.

Violent, this film is. It holds no bars in showcasing the brutality of people in power. Intimidation and ruthless behavior upon challenge is very commonplace. In this sense, it’s filler for the main course of personal confrontation for many of the characters. Somewhat vile as it is to think on, the entertainment factor is displayed with blood.

Big bad walking.

This is not to say it’s a blood fest the entire way through. In some cases, it holds. Specifically, it holds when it matters—delicately balancing the right time to expend the carnage for maximum effect. So often scenes will involve characters held at gunpoint, with some quiet words exchanged by those at threat and those threatening to let the tension linger.

Eventually, these standoffs became the more vital parts of the film for me. Not just because they became more adrenaline-inducing as time goes on, but because it allows individual actors to really command the scene. Regina Hall, Idris Elba, and LaKeith Stanfield (coincidentally all affiliated) were the standouts for me, making immorality really, really cool. Their presence in each scene is magnificent, though Stanfield did come off as more lackey-like compared to the other two.

Big bad threatening.

Seeing those with personal history face off after building up to it for most of the film is intensely satisfying. Almost methodical in its approach to violence, understanding that action is worthless without stakes. Sometimes the violence is necessary to provide clarity on the position of characters in the context of the situation. This cast threatens more than they actually follow through, yet every word feels like a poisoned dagger to the throat.

Among those characters, there is a slight disconnect in balance in their general importance. Stanfield’s character feels lackey-like to some extent; some of the male lead’s friends, particularly the ones whose only shticks consist of flipping a coin and having a quick draw, aren’t terribly developed. Even his love interest, played by Zazie Beetz (someone else I like) is more just someone for him to fawn over. Frankly, Beetz probably has the least to do in this entire thing. She almost doesn’t matter.

Big bad gang.

Thus, it’s not a perfect film. Even still, the atmosphere and character engagement in tensile situation really make this shine. The Harder They Fall has a great sense of style that reinvigorates the Western genre while also paying respect to those that came before. And definitely still incredibly violent.


I did not expect to like this as much as I did. Even from the get-go, this seemed destined for a 6 or so, based solely on the mechanics going in and the rather stocky characters present. Fortunately, great antagonist performances, emotional stakes rising at the most opportune times, and surprisingly refreshing action keep this more than watchable for its duration. Would love to see a sequel to this.

Final Score: 8/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

If reading this compelled you to give me a dollar, feel free to tip me on Ko-fi.

Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.

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