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The Harder They Fall (2021) - Netflix Western with Regina King, Idris Elba & Lakeith Stanfield

  • 19-10-2021 11:05pm
    Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 10,885 Mod ✭✭✭✭

    The "teaser" (if you can call a 2.5 min trailer that) was out in June but I only found out about it recently reading about it in Sight and Sound.

    Directed by Jeymes Samuel, it's a Western with a principal cast who are almost exclusively Black, playing fictionalised versions of historical figures.

    It's getting a limited theatrical release this month and hits Netflix on November 3rd.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 28,447 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    Caught a screening of it a week or two ago. It’s an immensely stylish piece of work - the rare kind of film that has all the flourishes of a music video but doesn’t feel lesser because of it. Everything from title card drops to unexpected music cues hit hard. The cast is also an outrageously talented bunch: hell of an ensemble.

    I’m not sure it ultimately amounts to something more than the sum of it parts. I was entertained and impressed for the duration, but perhaps there was something just a little hollow about the western tale at its centre. There’s a few ideas that don’t quite land here and there, and there are times it can’t shake off the shadow of Tarantino’s revisionist westerns (thankfully this has a far less troublesome Black perspective than Tarantino’s somewhat dodgy efforts to emulate the same). But as said, it was plenty of fun nonetheless, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the director and actors’ efforts even if ultimately there was that special something missing.

    Post edited by johnny_ultimate on

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,494 ✭✭✭✭Slydice

    Sounds like they went for a safe play-by-the-numbers then.

    I was definitely impressed when I saw the cast and the two trailers for it.

    Was wondering what they would do to give each of the cast some limelight.

    Still gonna give it a watch just to see the talent anyway! 🙂

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 28,447 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    To be fair I think pretty much everyone in the cast gets a few scenes to shine. I'd have loved to see more of Lakeith Stanfield, as there's a certain muted, even melancholic pitch to his performance which was super interesting. Regina King and Delroy Lindo are always excellent, and the lesser-known Danielle Deadwyler is great too. Jonathan Majors is one of the great finds of the last few years (particularly in The Last Black Main In San Francisco). It's maybe Idris Elba's performance of all of them that left me cold - several of the other performances were idiosyncratic takes on familiar tropes, whereas Elba's felt more familiar and straightforward.

  • Registered Users Posts: 17,440 ✭✭✭✭silverharp

    it looks very derivative , like someone watched a bunch of Guy Richie London gangster films and said lets rework them and set it in the West in the 19th Century. The film looks like its 20 years late to the party

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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,770 ✭✭✭TheIrishGrover

    Well it looks fun. Hell of a cast. I was never really gone on Regina King until Watchmen. And then she was absolutely phenomenal in that. I haven't seen the movie but yeah, the trailer certainly is going for the Tarantino vibe (along with all the pros-and-cons related), But yeah, that was my concern: Is it a case of style over substance because it is nothing if not stylish (Trailer anyway).

    Looking forward to this though.

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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 32,554 CMod ✭✭✭✭pixelburp

    Empty style well executed can always be as entertaining as any degree of competent substance; the trailer certainly looks like something coasting on the energy of the superficial - and that's ok if it's well handled. You look at something like the Oceans 11 reboot for an example of this sort of thing.

    The director and Regina King chatted on the kermode and mayo podcast, both speaking very well. "fun" fact: the director, Jeymes Samuel, is brother to the singer Seal (for those old enough to remember him)

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 28,447 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    Watching the trailer it's funny what YouTube / digital compression can do - whereas a lot of the style looked absolutely fine and slick on a big screen, it doesn't look anywhere near as good in that trailer. Looks a bit cheap, even. Wonder what it'll be like on Netflix with all the extra Dolby bells and whistles and what-not.

    Anyway, the film is apparently showing in a couple of cinemas now - seems to be the Movies @ ones in Dublin. Although I certainly can see it getting lost in the crowd given it's a hell of a few weeks for new releases.

  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 10,885 Mod ✭✭✭✭Fysh

    Stuck this on tonight and enjoyed it as a fun, stylish action/Western thing. There are some neat stylistic flourishes on the visual front, enough that I do wish I'd been able to see it on the big screen - I may yet stick it on again on my projector at some point. I suspect I'll be doing some reading about the real-world individuals in the film, too.

    The performances are all pretty good, although given the size of the cast I'd almost wish we had a bit more time to spend with some of them. It's probably for the best that it wasn't any longer, though - could easily have started to feel a bit baggy around the middle...

    I hope it does at least reasonable numbers for Netflix - while I don't particularly want a sequel, I'd like more films like this.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,707 ✭✭✭FortuneChip

    Watched this last night. It's enjoyable.

    Ticks every cliche imaginable. Every single one. It would have been nice to see them try shake up the formula a little.

    I felt the bigger names brought the least to the party. Elba & King just kinda brood and smirk respectively.

    Jonahtan Majors is strong, and Lakeith Stanfield isn't given enough screentime at all.

  • Moderators, Arts Moderators, Regional Abroad Moderators Posts: 10,885 Mod ✭✭✭✭Fysh

    Agreed re: King and Elba, though to a certain extent I think that is partly down to how their characters are written - certainly as shown they are basically unrepentant villains, regardless of the hardships from their childhood. Whereas most of the rest of the cast have a bit more ambiguity at play in terms of how good or bad they are, whether they're outlaws or not. I would've happily watched more of Lindo's character as much as Lakeith's, for example - in both cases there was a strong sense of the character having a developed inner life that could support more stories.

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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 32,554 CMod ✭✭✭✭pixelburp

    A plot that was cliché almost to an eye-rolling degree, but then on reflection: how many stories are left in the genre of the American Western anyway? In any case, what left the real impression was the bold style and swagger brought to this more heightened portrayal of the West. Big performances, set against colourful, arresting visuals; the theatricality of it all sometimes emphasised by backgrounds resembling the canvas backdrop of a stage. While, importantly for this sort of film, the climactic battle was exactly as chaotic, violent and impactful as it was promising throughout the runtime.

    After this and the references to him in Watchmen, I'd be very interested to watch a film about Bass Reeves - especially if it's played by Delroy Lindo. While the younger cast did fine, and the "names" brought some glowering authenticity to the story, Lindo's Reeves had a magnetism and charisma that could have easily held a film on his own.