Western

The Harder They Fall (2021)

The Harder They Fall (2021)

Netflix Original

Director:

Jeymes Samuel

Writers:

Jeymes Samuel

Boaz Yakin

Starring:

Jonathan Majors

Idris Elba

Zazie Beetz

RJ Cyler

Edi Gathegi

Danielle Deadwyler

Regina King

LaKeith Stanfield

Delroy Lindo

Blurb:

When an outlaw discovers his enemy is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to seek revenge in this Western.

Review:

I’ve been looking forward to The Harder They Fall since I saw the trailer. It mostly delivered on my expectations, however, it dragged in some bits and slowed the pacing down. I would have liked it if the romance had been more hinted at instead of explored. I don’t particularly care about romance in a western because the genre is already filled with so much. The romance of the lone gunslinger coming in and saving the town. In this case, though, the gunslinger had a small group of friends, which still worked in my opinion. However, they didn’t save the town. I was surprised at that route and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Was the town too corrupt? It didn’t seem that way, so I’m not sure why that decision was made.

There were several tropes that were inverted and I liked that a lot. I also LOVED how they depicted the white town. It was hilarious. I was kind of bummed that the second friend ended up dying. You already knew the young one was going to, he was too cocky to live in that kind of world. I also did not like the reveal at the end, which was not needed at all. Bad guys in westerns don’t need motivation other than being bad.

I liked the ending (I love Regina King’s character) and I’m hoping that there’s a sequel that works on fixing the things I disliked. This is the kind of western I enjoy, one that’s not super artsy, though, The Harder They Fall did have its moments.

3.5/5

Cat Ballou (1965)

The Great Movie Re-Watch

Cat Ballou (1965)

Director:

Elliot Silverstein

Writers:

Walter Newman

Frank Pierson

Starring:

Jane Fonda

Lee Marvin

Michael Callan

Dwayne Hickman

Nat ‘King’ Cole

Stubby Kaye

Blurb:

A young schoolteacher turns into an outlaw to avenge her murdered father.

Thoughts:

Cat Ballou is another one of my video rental finds. I’d never seen a western led by a woman, and I immediately loved it. Jane Fonda is gorgeous, and I loved how stubborn she was. She knew what she wanted, and when she decided how to do it, she was all in. She was the boss of the crew, and it was great.

While looking up this movie, I was surprised to find it had won an Oscar. Lee Marvin won the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Eli ‘Kid’ Shelleen and Tim Strawn. It won a few other awards and was generally well-received by critics at the time. It was also one of the top-grossing movies of the year. Yet, we never got another female-led western like this one. How disappointing.

Because of the older men in my life, I’ve seen a fair few westerns, and it’s a genre of movies and books that I have enjoyed watching and reading. My problem with it and why I don’t enjoy more of it, is its depiction of women. Most of the time, they’re an afterthought, and other times they’re used as a tragedy to push the hero on to greatness. This isn’t a problem only westerns suffer from. It’s just harder to find female-led stories in the genre. Cat Ballou is one of just a handful of western movies led by women. Wyoming by Zane Grey and Ride the River by Louis L’Amour are my favorite western books. It’s been a while, but I used to re-read them frequently.

The Godless miniseries on Netflix is the last female-led western that I remember happening. Even that, though, had a man come in and save an entire town of women. I was so infuriated by that series, mainly because the trailer sold me something that wasn’t what I got.

I’ll stop before this gets any longer or angrier. Pretty sure more of these rants are to come, though.

Nat ‘King’ Cole and Stubby Kaye sing the narration in this movie, and I will end up having it stuck in my head for days.

There is a comedic element to the film, but it’s more of an undertone than flat out Blazing Saddles.

There are so many things to enjoy about this movie, and I’m happy that it’s one I own.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

NETFLIX

Director:

Ethan Coen

Joel Coen

Starring:

Tim Blake Nelson

James Franco

Liam Neeson

Harry Melling

Tom Waits

Bill Heck

Zoe Kazan

Grainger Hines

Jonjo O’Neill

Brendan Gleeson

Saul Rubinek

Tyne Daly

Chelcie Ross

Plot:

An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.

Review:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a Western anthology in which at least one person dies in every story. The first story is amusing and fun to watch, while each story after that is various levels of depressing. It was not what I expected and while I enjoyed some parts of it and the stories will probably stick with me a while, I didn’t really like it.

The first story is Buster Scruggs, it’s filled with music and seeming magic, it’s fun. The next story is Near Algodones and it is also fairly amusing and fun, with a tragic, though, deserved ending. Things take a dark and depressing turn with Meal Ticket and it made me really sad. All Gold Canyon was depressing in a different way, though, it had beautiful scenery. I ended up talking to the TV a fair amount during The Girl Who Got Rattled and was seriously hoping it would take a different turn than it did. Sadly, by the time we got to the final story, The Mortal Remains, I had checked out and did not pay as much attention to it. So if it was a fitting ending, I’m not sure.

I wasn’t a fan of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but then it’s not really the type of movie I like to watch. I will say, after watching something so depressing, I’m really looking forward to some Christmas movies.

2/5

Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger Girl By: Lindsay Ely

Plot:

James Patterson presents a bold new heroine—a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Annie Oakley: Serendipity Jones, the fastest sharpshooter in tomorrow’s West.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

Review:

I devoured the first seventy percent of this book. The world was relatively interesting, the characters were fine, but most of all, for me at least, it was a western led by a girl. I love westerns with female leads.

The last thirty percent was a difficult slog, though. I had never cared about the characters so when it really started to get emotional I did not care what happened, at all.

Did I say I love westerns with female leads? I should have said I love westerns with female leads that are strong. Pity lives up to her name. It’s a pity she was the lead because she had no brain. It’s a pity she had almost no survival instinct and whenever it did kick in she made the wrong choice.

The book was a YA novel, I’m always harshest on them, for whatever reason. I honestly try to avoid them, but they seem to have the stories I want to read but the characters I fucking hate.

I didn’t like Gunslinger Girl. I wanted a female led western with a woman that didn’t need everyone to tell her what to do and wasn’t constantly just reacting to the situation. I wanted more than just a girl falling in love with a boy and doing everything for him.

2/5

Godless (2017-?)

Godless (2017)

Network:

Netflix

Starring:

Jack O’Connell

Michelle Dockery

Scoot McNairy

Merritt Wever

Jeff Daniels

Thomas Brodie-Sangster

Plot:

Frank Griffin, an outlaw terrorizing the 1880s American West, hunts down Roy Goode, his partner turned enemy. Roy hides out at a ranch as Frank’s chase leads him to La Belle, New Mexico – a town mysteriously made up almost entirely of women.

Review:

I canceled Netflix in 2017 because they canceled Sense 8 and I was pissed. At the end of October when I saw the trailer for Godless I decided I’d resubscribe. It looked incredible, it was a western where women were kicking butt. A whole town filled with women who’d lost their husbands tragically but were able to take care of business. It was everything I’d ever wanted.

Then the second trailer hit and I grew concerned. On November 22nd when it launched I wasn’t at home so I wasn’t able to watch and as impressions started to roll in I became incredibly disappointed.

I’m not sure who in the Netflix marketing department thought it would be a good idea to paint the series out to be something it wasn’t but I hope they had a stern talking too. I thought I was going to get a western where men were the bystanders and women took the wheel and settled shit. I understand that’s not what the creator ever intended and I feel kind of bad for him since that’s what a lot of people expected, but I’m also pissed. I would have watched the stupid thing if it was just a normal western, why did they have to go and raise my hopes with that amazing trailer?

It took me a while to work my way to watching Godless, then it took me a while to make my way through the seven episodes, and I know I didn’t give it a fair chance, but I don’t care. I enjoy westerns and this was certainly one of them. It was beautifully shot and the female characters were pretty awesome and diverse, but they barely had any screen time and they were still taken advantage of and weak.

There was no need to make this a miniseries, it was needlessly long and filled with unnecessary flashbacks. It took whole episodes to cover what could have been covered with a few words. It was boring and filled with longing glances. Most of the best scenes were in the last episode and you could almost skip everything and just watch that if you wanted.

The women ended up doing all the heavy lifting but it only followed them when there was a chance at nudity or a lesbian relationship. Merritt Wever’s character was so perfect and I wish we’d had more of her. Instead we spent most of our time following four men live out a story that has already been told a million times.

I know I’m being harsh, maybe even too harsh, but I saw a glimpse of what could have been and I can’t forget it.

2/5