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Large stretches of the picture consist of loud yells, but in the more intimate moments this western does come into its own.

Even with a sprawling cast of some of the most talented black actors currently at work in Hollywood, there is no reason why a revenge tale as simple as the one at the core of The Harder They Fall should be stretched out over two hours and fifteen minutes. Suffice to say there is plenty of padding in this classic western story about a young boy who grows up to take on the man who killed his parents.

Writer-director Jeymes Samuel tries to cover this up with some impressive camerawork for a guy making his feature debut, and he is as well-versed in western tropes as anyone can hope for, but you never quite escape the feeling that large stretches of the picture are style over substance, loud yells instead of interesting talks.

In the more intimate moments The Harder They Fall does come into its own, as the specific character stakes are much more interesting than the overall narrative arc. And while I definitely could have done without Idris Elba's minutes-long final act monologue, which lazily explains away his villainy with a twist bordering on the parody, overall - if you're in the mood for a decent, woke-ish update of an often-told tale - The Harder They Fall ain't so bad.

release: 2021

director: Jeymes Samuel

starring: Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Idris Elba, Regina King


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