When you think of the traditional Western film, what do you initially envision? All white casts, guns “a-blazin”, robberies, saloons, and more? Well, British singer, songwriter, and filmmaker Jeymes Samuel’s (also known as The Bullitts) new Netflix film, The Harder They Fall came out towards the end of October, and I must say, this film is definitely different and is probably going to pick up some awards.
The movie completely switches the classic Western narrative we have all previously seen. The film displays an all Black leading cast, along with Black women having strong and empowering roles. This movie is such an awesome switch from the movies that only include Black characters as stereotypes or as experiencing trauma, and that are constantly in the media today. In an interview that Jeymes Samuel had with Polygon, a point was made that classic Western movies completely ignore the fact that 1 in 4 cowboys were Black. Samuel also states that the people of color in classic Westerns were playing stereotypical roles. “… Black people were always slaves or something like that. So I really had to update that narrative” says Samuel.
Another aspect that I find imperative in determining how amazing a movie can be is the soundtrack/score. The soundtrack for this movie was absolutely amazing, with a lineup of artists like Kid Cudi, CeeLo Green, Lauryn Hill, Seal, Jay-Z, and more. The music was also not like your traditional Western tunes. Reggae, hip-hop, soul, and other genres were incorporated into the film. It was a really nice shift from the typical and expected Western movie music that many are used to hearing. There is one specific scene in the beginning where the film introduces the 2 cowboy gangs, and this is one of the hardest movie scenes I’ve ever watched. The song “Guns Go Bang” by Kid Cudi and Jay-Z plays along with the scene, and my head instantly started swaying side to side along to the music. I then grabbed my phone and immediately saved the song to one of my playlists.
There are a plethora of Easter eggs enveloped within this movie as well. Yes, the movie is 2 hours and 19 minutes long, but I have already watched it twice to look back and find the hidden gems placed within the movie. The stores in the fictional town of Redwood were named after people who worked on the film. A store is called “Carter & Carter”, named after Jay-Z. Another was titled after Samuel himself, with another being named after James Lassiter, who was a producer on the film. Another one of the film’s Easter eggs is a homage to Spike Lee’s Malcolm X from 1992. (Let’s see if you can find it!). There was also an Easter egg in the first half of the film that is a tribute to the late and great actor, Chadwick Boseman. Try and find it! (Hint: It appears during the train scene).
At the beginning of the movie we are told that the story is not true, but the people in the story were in fact real people. This led me to research the characters from the movie and I found myself learning so much after watching. One character named Cathay ‘Cuffee’ Williams stuck out to me. She was based on the real Cathay Williams, who was the first known Black woman to have served in the United States Army. However, she went under the alias William Cathay, and served while presenting as a man. Many more interesting facts and history are laced within the characters, and you’ll be wanting to do so much research after watching the film.
There are so many more positives that I could include into this article, but then it would be entirely too long. For the people who are fans of plot twists, you’re definitely going to love this film; and with the way the movie ends, it seems like there is going to be a sequel. This movie is absolutely genius and revolutionary. Since it is streaming on such a large platform, I hope that means that millions and millions of people will see it. After watching the film, I suggest you watch interviews with Jeymes Samuel himself so that you can get a deeper insight into the film. The Harder They Fall better pick up a ton of Academy Awards this year; it is 100% well deserved. Go stream it on Netflix ASAP. Happy watching!