Netflix’s western film, The Harder They Fall, directed by Jeymes Samuel, is a stylized western film. From direction to character revelations, everything depicts the influence of Sergio Leone and probably Quentin Tarantino as well. Though the film employs a lot of styles and thrilling music to amplify the action sequences, it lacks an impactful narrative. It’s all the same Western Style Cowboy thing.
The Harder They Fall follows Nat Love, the outlaw who robs outlaws, the angel of death who hunts down his nemesis, Rufus Buck. The man who killed his mother and father and inscribed a cross on Nat’s head at the age of 10. The Harder They Fall is a revenge cowboy story with lots of shooting, dynamite, and a rocking background score.
A title card informs that while the story is fictional, the characters in the film existed.
‘The Harder They Fall’ Plot Summary
A prologue scene depicts a 10-year-old Nat Love and his happy family. Everything is perfect until the devil arrives at the door with his slick golden revolvers. Nat’s father begs the outlaw to spare his family, but the treacherous devil shoots him and Nat’s mother. Another outlaw, with a scorpion “tattoo” on his hand, grabs Nat’s head. The devil inscribes a cross on Nat’s forehead with a razor and spares his life.
A few years later, a grown-up Nat (Jonathan Majors) shoots the man with a scorpion tattoo, Jesus Cortez, in Salina, Texas. Nat spent his years hunting down Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), the man who slaughtered his family. With Cortez dead and Rufus behind bars in Yuma, Nat believes he has finally avenged his family’s murder. He arrives in Douglastown to meet his lady love, Stagecoach Mary. She runs a saloon in the town and is a former member of the Nat Love Gang.
After finishing the last member of Rufus’ gang, Nat decides to propose to Mary for marriage. However, his moment of romance is interrupted by a member of his gang, Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi). Bill and Jim Beckwourth looted the Crimson Hood Gang, who worked for Rufus Buck. A surviving outlaw of the hood informs Nat that Rufus is getting out, and all the gangs are setting out to ride for him again.
The news of Rufus’ release disturbs Nat’s peace. He teams up with Marshal Bass Reeves to attack Rufus and his town, Redwood. Nat’s gang follows him to protect Nat and engage in a final combat with Rufus’ gang.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Did Wiley Escoe betray Rufus Buck?
In The Harder They Fall, Rufus Buck established his own town for the Africans and Indians and named it Redwood. But evidently, Rufus wasn’t a man who would rest on a seat and govern people. Hence, he handed the administration to his most loyal friend, Wiley Escoe.
Marshal Bass Reeves was hunting both Rufus and Wiley. But to protect himself, Wiley betrayed Rufus and cracked a deal with the law. He snitched about Rufus and, in return, earned a Sheriff’s badge for himself. Wiley became the official Sheriff of Redwood and ruled the town legally, while Rufus was put behind bars.
Marshal Bass arrested Rufus and sent him to Yuma, from where he was shifted to Fort Smith (the place where the real Rufus Buck was hanged till death). In the film, Rufus’ close associate, Trudy Smith (Regina King), made a deal with General George Pyrce. The general granted full pardon to Rufus and his associates, in exchange for shooting an officiant of the law, Lieutenant General Abbott. Abbott and his men slaughtered an entire town to steal silver and his government was embarrassed of his deeds. General George wanted to get rid of Abbott and his men, and for that reason, he was ready to make a deal with the devil himself. General George assigned Abbott to transfer Rufus from Yuma to Fort Smith so that Rufus’ gang could raid the train and kill Abbott.
Trudy, Cherokee Bill, and others liberated Rufus and brought him back to Redwood. Rufus confronted Wiley Escoe and banished Wiley from the promised land. He wanted to rebuild the town, but for that, he needed money, which was stolen by Nat Love’s gang. It was time for a clash.
How did Nat and his Gang defeat Rufus Buck?
Stagecoach Mary tried to play heroic and plunged into devil’s land, all by herself. She believed that Rufus and Trudy wouldn’t suspect her as she was no longer a part of Nat’s gang. However, Rufus, the devil, had the power to look through the soul. He figured out the game Nat and Mary were playing.
Trudy captured Mary and Nat came to Redwood to rescue her. Rufus demanded Nat to return his money (25,000 dollars) and 10,000 dollars in interest in exchange for Mary. A helpless lover accepted the terms of the devil.
Nat was an outlaw, but he didn’t rob banks. He only robbed the outlaws. Rufus knew the weakness of a righteous Nat Love, and thus, to toy with him, he compelled Nat to rob a bank. Nat robbed the white town’s Maysville bank and stole the extra 10000 dollars. However, Nat knew that even after Rufus would get his money back, he wouldn’t let Mary live. At the pivotal moment, Rufus’ old nemesis, Wiley Escoe, came to Nat with a small weapons stockpile. The real Rufus Buck Gang had stashes of hidden weaponry all across the area, that was enough for a small army.
Nat and his gang attacked Redwood, and after heavy explosions and gunfire, Nat finally defeated Rufus.
Were Rufus Buck and Nat Love brothers?
In the end of The Harder They Fall, an emotional Rufus narrated the story of his abusive upbringing to Nat. Rufus told Nat that his father, who was an outlaw and an alcoholic, used to hit his mother. One day, a 10-year-old Rufus tried to save his mother, and his father turned his wrath upon Rufus. His mother tried to protect Rufus and attacked his father with a bottle. In a rage, his father killed his mother and left.
The ten-year-old Rufus, burning with vengeance, grew up to become an outlaw and searched for his father to make him pay for his mother’s murder. Rufus finally found his father, who had transformed into a new man and had started a new family.
After killing Rufus’ mother, the father came out clean. He became a man of God and changed his surname from Buck to Love. He had a church, a ten year-old-son, and a new wife. And Rufus destroyed his father’s new life to take revenge. He killed his father and his new wife and gave a mark to his new son, Nathaniel Love.
Rufus told Nat that he was his half-brother. He spared Nat’s life because he wanted Nat to follow the path of vengeance and commit all the sins from which their father tried to run away. It was the ultimate revenge for Rufus. Nat couldn’t control his anger and emotions, and in a devastating state, he emptied his barrel on his half-brother, Rufus Buck.
‘The Harder They Fall’ Ending Explained
The ring that Nat gave to Mary played an integral role in the half-brother’s story. Nat told Mary that his father had given the ring to his mother. Probably, it was the same ring that Rufus’ father gave to his mother. The ring was precious to Rufus as it was last memory of his mother. Hence he took it from Nat. In the end, Nat killed Rufus and took his father’s ring back.
During the combat with Rufus’ gang, Jim Beckwourth and Bill Pickett from Nat’s gang lost their lives. Nat, Marshal Bass, and Mary paid their last tributes to the fallen men. Nat also constructed a fake memorial cross for himself because he didn’t want to live the life of an Outlaw. He intentionally told his name to the bank manager in Maysville because he always had his escape plan in mind. And then Marshal Bass was there to verify Nat’s death. In the new life, Cuffee decided to become a sheriff, the first African American sheriff, maybe, in the film’s universe.
The law and outlaws parted their ways. Nat followed Stagecoach Mary, and the two would probably start a family together.
The film ended on a cliffhanger as the camera captured a towering Trudy Smith. During the brawl with Trudy, Mary didn’t kill her. She would hunt down Nat and Mary to take revenge. The ending of The Harder They Fall promises a sequel.
The Harder They Fall is a 2021 western thriller film directed by Jeymes Samuel. It is streaming on Netflix.