A white rugged face, a Stetson hat, an acclaimed sharpshooter gripping a leather gun holster—boots, a lasso, and the cahoots of men: Hollywood’s depiction of cowboys built an image of the Old West that exists as some of the most heroic endeavours of the white American man. Western flicks captivated the U.S. film industry from the early 1900s to the late ‘60s, respawning in times where America needed an injection of imperialistic spirit. It has ignited subgenres that expand on the traditional approach of a Western; films like The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (1966)—a spaghetti Western—retain a vivid sense of morality but moved away from American filming styles. In The Searchers (1956), an anti-hero leads watchers away from their usual understanding of the protagonist’s vantage point. 

There’s a range of even more complex stories, as we are now seeing with a spread of revisionist Westerns, considering the recent revision of The Magnificent Seven (2016), The Revenant (2015) and News Of The World (2020). Train robberies, the journeys of wantaway men escaping the East or army duty, and stories about famed outlaws like The Assassination Of Jesse James (2007)—one thing remains true of all of these interpretations of Westerns: that Black people’s existence and contributions to such periods is grossly overlooked. Westerns have always looked to evolve and expand on the unshone stories, but what they haven’t produced yet is a commendable take on Black cowboys and characters from the Old West.

Until now, that is. Enter The Harder They Fall (2021), an ensemble cast of Black actors, in a Black town, with a hard-hitting storyline not led by trauma or enveloped by race relations but one that blends the chemistry of awesome characters and their actors.