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MOVIES (LFF 2021) The Harder They Fall - Review



The Harder They Fall is an excellent feature. It’s an old-style epic western that pays homage from pretty much everything in the genre, ala Red Dead Redemption, a bold ride that’s also a hell of a lot of fun – seriously, this is an absolute riot – probably the most purely entertaining western that I’ve seen at the cinema: Certainly a better Magnificent Seven than the 2016 film (which I personally enjoyed, and yes, I know the 1960 Magnificent Seven is *also* a remake of Seven Samurai) – purely due to the passion, energy and excitement factor that is a result of an all-star cast that give it their absolute all.

Meet the Nat Love gang. The outlaws that rob other outlaws, Robin Hood style - it's even loosley based on a true story. A small band of vigilantes that compromises of the likes of Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi and RJ Cyler, who find themselves linking up with Delroy Lindo's Marshall and tasked with taken down “The Devil” – Rufus Buck, the man who killed Nat Love's parents and has just spring from prison. It’s a hell of a pitch and the film mixes a chaotic western films together with a freewheeling delight – there are shades of High Noon, The Searchers and The Wild Bunch here, especially in its brutality, and the shadow of Quentin Tarantino also lies heavy over The Harder They Fall. For a feature debut – it’s the mother of all calling cards, this is Jeymes Samuel showing that he can pretty much do anything.

It’s a real shame most will watch this on Netflix, it is an incredibly stylish from the get go deserving of big screen appeal - it has a look and feel of a well-crafted blockbuster, especially as Samuel is able to bring the experience that he has gained from Jay Z: Legacy, and the fifty-one-minute film They Die By Dawn to the table. But this is his first feature, and there’s a sense of rawness that comes with it – but that rawness is only an edge here, not a disadvantage in the slightest. The Harder They Fall pulls all the punches possible – and keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, self-aware without being smug about it, stylish without sacrificing the need for the script to feel indulgent, everything is delicately paced and it never once overstays your welcome.

Regina King and Lakeith Stanfield both a part of the rival gang run by Elba’s Rufus Buck. All three are as developed as the protagonists – Stanfield’s character is suitably terrifying and borderline scary to go up against – completely ruthless. Regina King and Zazie Beetz get a face off for the ages that showcases both actors at their best – and Elba, who is in surprisingly little of the movie, makes his presence felt and never really stops being any less of a formidable antagonist, always looking untouchable at any given moment. Majors' performance opposite him brings out the vulnerabilities in Nat Love’s outlaw that aren’t really present in Buck. At every move you’re always on team Love especially given the sense of mortality facing these characters – his band of outlaws are uniquely charming, and The Harder they Fall never shies away from giving the depth that they need to feel like real people – giving life to the legend - making them easier to follow wherever they go.

What a way to start the London Film Festival 2021. The rest of the films here might as well pack it up and go home already – we’ve found what’s probably going to be my favourite of the lot on the first day of the main event.

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