What makes a great movie?
This question has hounded me for most of my ten plus years of critiquing movies and writing a couple. I created my own set of boxes a movie has to check to answer this question – and still, every now and then a movie comes that makes me reassess those boxes.
However, after so many years and so many movies, I have noticed a particular quality that is fairly consistent across the movies I consider great: The movie has to be memorable for good stuff. Which brings me to the movie I want to talk about; The Harder They Fall.
Now, let us start what we have come here to do.
The story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before; Once Upon A Time In The West is just one of plenty films built on the exact same premise – minus the twist in the end. The characters are real people but the story is entirely fictional.
So, why I am even bothering?
Well, you have to see this one to get me. The acting, particularly by Jonathan Majors and Regina King is intense. Idris Elba, the man who stole my heart in Luther, The Wire, Dark Tower (yes, even in that abysmal disappointment), and The Suicide Squad didn’t have a lot of screen time – and honestly, his appearance felt dialed in or maybe he was asked to tone it down.
Either way, his character was ehn.
Laketh Stansfield, Zazie Beats, RJ Cyler, Delroy Lindo, Danielle Deadwyler (a Taraji lookalike) all give solid performances. The cinematography, pictures and set pieces are all gorgeous.
The music though…
Understand, The Harder They Fall is director Jeymes Samuel’s feature length debut. He had only directed a couple of short films before now; They Die By Dawn (which was released to promote his second album of the same name) and JAY-Z: Legacy, created for the rapper’s album 4:44. I first knew him as musician The Bullits when I ran into his album They Die By Dawn years ago and his movie influences were obvious even then; for one, he listed his album features as ‘starring’ as opposed to ‘featuring’. For another, Lucy Liu and Rosario Dawson make guest appearances.
Jeymes also happens to be younger brother to Seal; same Kiss-from-a-Rose SEAL.
But I digress.
The point is, the guy loves music and it is apparent in the way it is used all through the movie. Movie buffs understand the importance of music in a film; it sets tone and mood and can sometimes be more leading than dialogue. This movie makes this more apparent, and here it does a lot in elevating this movie from the realm of ‘just one more’ to ‘something special’.
I feel like ‘great’ may be too demanding a word to use in describing this movie, however it feels like a disservice to call it a ‘good one’. Still, the one thing it is undoubtedly is memorable, and I guarantee it will be talked about and referred to for a while.
PS: Try to see this in a cinema, okay? Thank me later.
by Seun Odukoya
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