Yahoo! Good News for Western Fans

Clint Eastwood diehards can breathe a sigh of relief if early reviews of a new Netflix western are bang on target.

It reports The Harder They Fall, which will premiere on November 3, around the same time Netflix looks to hike subscription prices here, isn’t the ‘woke’ western it sounds like in the new diversification-driven era of filmmaking.

It stars a predominantly black cast, including Idris Elba and Regina King, as some of the Wild West’s most notorious outlaws, and this week opened the BFI London Film Festival.

The Hollywood Reporter said it “represents rambunctious, swaggering action-adventure set in the Old West but given something of a hip and happening look and feel thanks to a focus on Black characters inspired by historical figures, stylish craft contributions and inspired needle drops.”

Said Variety of director Jeymes Samuel’s “stylish outlaw revenge saga” debut:

While the film doesn’t feel overtly political, through sheer power of representation, it’s shaking up the very restrictive codes of — and finding fresh life in — a genre that carbon-copied itself into oblivion via mid-’50s TV series like Gunsmoke and Rawhide.

Samuel isn’t inventing anything here by shifting the focus to non-white antiheroes. Oscar Micheaux was making Black Westerns a century ago, and the big screen saw notable examples via Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte in Buck and the Preacher and Mario Van Peebles’ Posse … Samuel’s two biggest influences seem to be Leone and Tarantino, which makes for a very style-forward presentation, sometimes at the expense of a clean, straightforward story …

Like Young Guns or Tombstone — the rare recent(ish) Westerns to have connected with audiences — The Harder They Fall is committed to putting its stamp on larger-than-life legends. The fact that their names aren’t nearly as well-known as Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp makes the film all the more compelling, especially in the dot-dot-dot coda that follows the final shootout, leaving room either for further exploits or for other directors to come along and expand upon the same characters.

The Guardian thought The Harder They Fall “enjoyable, if face-splatteringly brutal“, Deadline “vicious and unapologetic” and Empire “a flip, fun, flashy corrective” to the genre “domain of grizzled white men both in front of and behind the camera” — he’s talking to you, Clint — that “puts pistols firmly in the hands of under-represented groups rarely featured in cowboy classics and lets rip”.

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