Riding High
Total Film|October 2021
THE HARDER THEY FALL. Jeymes Samuel spotlights the forgotten faces of the American West…
Jeymes Samuel

It’s out with the Old West and in with the New West. Director Jeymes Samuel wanted to present a fresh take on the Stetsons and gunslingers genre in The Harder They Fall, his debut feature. “I love westerns so much but the depiction of people of colour and women is thoroughly uneven and unrealistic,” he says. “I wanted to bring balance.” Don’t expect any damsels in distress here.

The British filmmaker and singer/ songwriter, who is also known as The Bullitts, has assembled a killer cast to tell the story of real-life Black outlaw cowboy Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), who goes on the hunt for revenge after discovering that his mortal enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) has been sprung from jail. Reuniting his old gang featuring ex-girlfriend Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler) and Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi), Love must face off against Buck’s own motley crew led by ‘Treacherous’ Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield).

“It’s about one man’s quest to find the killer of his parents,” explains Samuel, “and in doing so find himself. Love as a character is a symbol of hope. You can rip everything someone loves away but they can still persevere and pass through the other side of that tunnel, no matter how long it takes. He’s also a symbol of swag. He’s a G! He reminds me of Sean Connery in Dr. No. He has a coolness and a calmness about him that is relatable.”

Samuel, who binged on westerns growing up, wrote the script with Boaz Yakin while rapper Jay-Z came on board as co-producer. The director describes the Netflix film as “an action-adventure thriller”, one that captures the humour and attitude of life on the streets - even if those streets are dusty ones trampled by horses in the 19th century.

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