The life of Nat Love, one of the most famous cowboys in the “Old West,” will be revisited in Netflix’s new Western romp, The Harder They Fall. It appears to be an original story by director Jeymes Samuel and co-writer Boaz Yakin, based on the mythology of Love’s life, which he documented in his 1907 autobiography: Life and Adventures of Nat Love: A True History of Slavery Days, Life on the Great Cattle Ranges and on the Plains of the West. From the trailer alone, it looks exceptional, and follows in the footsteps of Blaxsploitation films and Westerns, themselves a fictionalization of the imagined west. Besides, Regina King is in it—how could it get better than that?
The trailer opens with a punchy series of shots, as Regina King and a band of cowboys pull off a train heist. There’s an instantly memorable moment when King parks her horse in front of the train just as it comes to a stop. As the conductor runs out screaming at her, she shoots him without a word. Soon after, it turns out the heist was not of the bank sort, but the human sort. In a vault surrounded by guards is Idris Elba, the film’s villain, who emerges with a sigh of relief. In classic Western fashion, a shootout ensues.
An official summary for the film, set to release this fall, describes the plot as such:
When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) discovers that his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is being released from prison he rounds up his gang to track Rufus down and seek revenge. Those riding with him in this assured, righteously new school Western include his former love Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), his right and left hand men — hot-tempered Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) and fast drawing Jim Beckwourth (R.J. Cyler)—and a surprising adversary-turned-ally. Rufus Buck has his own fearsome crew, including “Treacherous” Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), and they are not a group that knows how to lose.
From the trailer, it’s clear that filmmaker Jeymes Samuel has pulled from the political tradition of Blaxsploitation, featuring an all-Black band of cowboy vigilantes, and follows in the wake of films like Melvin Peeble’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song or Jim Brown’s Slaughter or Jack Hill’s iconic Pam Grier vehicle Coffy. Those references even come down to visual motifs like punch zooms or outlandish violence and highly choreographed fight scenes.
Also of note: The Harder They Fall features Nat Love, the most famous Black cowboy in history, in a genre dominated by Hollywood’s extremely racist “golden age” of Westerns in the 1950s. These films, which now form the foundation of Old West in the American imagination, were themselves complete fabrications of the very real social fabric of the colonization of the West.
It’s a bonus that The Harder They Fall features a truly stellar lineup of actors, from King to Delroy Lindo and LaKeith Stanfield and Zazie Beats and even Damon Wayans Jr. The dialogue rips right along, the soundtrack seems excellent, the costumes are vibrant, and really, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Variety reports it will debut on select theatres this fall, in addition to Netflix. If there’s any movie to buy a big bucket of popcorn for, it’s this one.