“The Harder They Fall”: the Netflix movie with African American cowboys and other films that defy the western | The harder the fall will be | Regina King | Idris Elba | Jonathan Majors | cowboys | United States | USA | USA | LIGHTS

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There is no cinematographic genre more typical of the American industry than the western. And there is no whiter gender either: understand it in the sense of a skin color associated with the hegemonic. Jeans with blond hair, blue eyes and a half-grown beard. ‘Cowboys’ with bowed legs and quick hands, who live ruminating tobacco while firing their machismo and racism like bullets against the enemy’s chest.

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That is why, even today, it is surprising that a western like “The harder will be the fall” (“The Harder They Fall”) opt for an African-American cast. It is not a new choice, but it is a rare one. We had seen it before in Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles” (1974), with Cleavon Little as Sheriff Bart, albeit in a rather comical and extravagant register. Or also in “Django Unchained” (2012) by Quentin Tarantino, with a Jamie Foxx as the center of a dance of violence.

Regina King (front) is one of the figures of the great cast of "The harder will be the fall".  (Netflix)
Regina King (in front) is one of the figures of the great cast of “Harder will be the fall.” (Netflix)

“The Fall Will Be Tougher”, Jeymes Samuel’s debut feature which premiered last week at the BFI London Film Festival –with good comments–, opts for a wide and high-level cast: there are Jonathan Majors (“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”, “Lovecraft Country”), Idris Elba (“The Wire”, “Mandela”), Zazie Beetz (“Atlanta”, “Joker”), Regina King ( “Watchmen,” “If Beale Street Could Talk”), Delroy Lindo (“Malcolm X,” “Da 5 Bloods”) and Lakeith Stanfield (“Selma,” “Get Out”).

A revenge story set in the Old West, which while appealing to traditional western clichés, it also boasts frenzied action and a particular irony to address issues such as the egregious discrimination of the time. In addition, as its director Jeymes Samuel has pointed out, the film seeks to correct a historical underrepresentation of the black population in the genre. Because John Wayne is perfect, but not everyone has to look like him.


From the Black Western to the Neo Western, through the Spaghetti Western or the so-called Weird Wild West, there have been many attempts to give a twist – sometimes merely anecdotal, in other cases more successful – to the conventions imposed by John Ford and company. Here we review only seven examples as a sample of its versatility.

“Billy The Kid Versus Dracula” (1966)

The unlikely encounter between the 19th century outlaw and the most popular of the bloodsuckers sprang from William Beaudine’s mind. An example of the so-called Horror Western, filmed in just eight days, with David Carradine in the role of the vampire, and originally released alongside another related rarity: “Jesse James vs. Frankenstein’s Daughter.”

“The Valley of Gwangi” (1969)

Here the genre intersects with the fantastic. It tells the story of a ‘cowboy’ who, riding through a mountainous valley, runs into dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. Equipped with today’s precarious but endearing special effects by Ray Harryhausen (the same as “Sinbad” and “Jason and the Argonauts”, to be exact), the film is a must-see gem of eccentricity.

“El Topo” (1970)

Chilean Alejandro Jodorowsky chose Mexico to film this delusion full of religious and philosophical symbolism. It stars a gunman who must face a gang of fetishists, which is why the film includes high amounts of sadism, lewdness and oddities. An Acid Western that must be entered with a prepared mind.

“Dead Man” (1995)

Called a “psychedelic western” by its own director, the masterful Jim Jarmusch, in this black and white film starring Johnny Depp there are also deep existential reflections. Irreverent characters, strange or strange dialogues, and above all the signature of an author who dares to revolutionize almost everything he touches.

“Space Cowboys” (2000)

Seen with the naked eye, it may not qualify as a western. However, from the title the desire to channel the spirit of these films is made explicit, by telling the story of an unexpected space mission with four old men as crew members. Harsh gestures, harsh moods and a Clint as director and actor give this film a special charm.

“Brokeback Mountain” (2005)

It is not just a romantic drama, but it portrays a homosexual idyll. And for the western, always so strong and masculine, that premise was already provocative. Ang Lee in the direction, and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as the remarkable lead duo, manage to concoct a moving and memorable film, which breaks its possible labels to rise as a universal work.

“Bacurau” (2019)

Everything takes place in a desolate town in Brazil, and in a not very well defined time. The inhabitants of the place begin to discover that a strange force wants to erase them from the map. And so the ‘thriller’ flows, the action, a certain fantasy and, of course, the western aesthetic that seems to drink at the same time from Sam Peckinpah and Glauber Rocha. They are directed by the Brazilian Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.

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  • “Tougher Will Be the Fall” premieres on Netflix on November 3.


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