Netflix’s new Western action flick, ‘The Harder They Fall’, comes out with all guns blazing. The movie follows Nat Love, an infamous outlaw who learns his nemesis Rufus Buck has been released from prison. He rounds up his old gang and sets out to get revenge.
The movie opens in a house on the American frontier. Ten-year-old Nathaniel Love sits down for lunch with his father Theodore and his mother Eleanor when they are interrupted by outlaw Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), who holds the family at gunpoint.
Theodore attempts to talk Buck down, asking him to leave his family, as his quarrel was with Theodore alone. However, Buck shoots Eleanor and Theodore and permanently scars Nathaniel’s forehead.
Several years later, Nathaniel, now an outlaw by the name Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), kills Jesus Cortez (Julio Cesar Cedillo), a man in Buck’s gang who was there when Buck killed his family. Meanwhile, the Crimson Hood gang are ambushed by Love’s partners Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi) and Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler).
The leader of the Crimson Hoods, Monroe Grimes (Damon Wayans Jr.), says that the money belongs to Buck, who is about to be released from prison. Love travels to meet Mary Fields (Zazie Beetz), his former lover who now runs a chain of saloons. Pickett and Beckwourth bring Grimes to Love.
Meanwhile, Trudy Smith and Cherokee Bill intercept a train in which corrupt officers are transporting Buck. Once free, Buck promptly has everyone killed except one. Buck’s gang make their way to their hometown, Redwood, where Trudy runs a saloon.
Buck’s former partner, Wiley Escoe, is now a corrupt sheriff and mayor of Redwood who has enriched himself at the town’s expense. Buck beats Wiley up and banishes him from the town; he then proposes a tax on the citizens to raise the 50,000 dollars they need to save Redwood. Buck kills a citizen who objected but accepts that he won’t be able to raise the entire sum from taxes alone.
Enraged that Buck has been pardoned, the Marshall who arrested him, Bass Reeves, joins Love, Pickett, Beckwourth, Fields and her associate Cuffee to hunt Buck down and finish him off once and for all. The gang runs into Escoe, who reveals that Buck is back in Redwood and is in dire need of money.
Sensing an opportunity, Fields volunteers to go ahead and scope out Redwood under the pretext of making a generous offer on Trudy Smith’s saloon. However, Buck sees through the ruse and captures Fields. Threatening to kill her unless Nat returns the 25,000 dollars he stole from him with a 10,000 dollar interest stolen from a bank in Marysfield, a White town, without masking his identity.
Nat and Cuffee successfully rob the bank without killing anybody. However, Love and Reeves agree that Buck will kill Fields once he gets the money, so they procure guns, ammunition, and dynamite from Escoe. They load the money into one cart and the dynamite in another. They blow up the dynamite as they roll into Redwood with the carts, killing some of Buck’s men.
Cherokee Bill tries to hold Love at gunpoint, but Beckwourth manages to surprise him. Beckwourth then challenges Bill to a quickdraw contest but is killed as Bill cheats the count.
An intense fight takes place where the money is destroyed, most of Buck’s gang are killed, and Love and Pickett are wounded. Fields is freed by Cuffee; she chases after Smith and overpowers her in a hand-to-hand fight. Bill shoots Pickett in the back and is then killed by Cuffee. Wiley Escoe is killed by Buck when Love finally makes his way to Buck to get his revenge.
The Harder They Fall ending explained:
Buck sees Love coming but is unwilling to defend himself. Instead, he tells Love his story, how his outlaw dad was abusive towards his mother, how he ended up killing her in a drunken fit of rage and just fled, abandoning ten-year-old Buck, and how Buck ended up tracking down his father years later, finding him with a new name, a church, and a family.
Buck reveals that Theodore was his father too. He adds that while killing their father and Eleanor might have been retribution, the real revenge was sparing Nat, turning him into the outlaw he now is and scarring him so that he’d recognise him once he came looking for revenge as he did. Nat, furious at this revelation, shoots Buck dead.
Nat Love reunites with Mary Fields, and they, along with Marshall Bass Reeves and Cuffee, bury Pickett and Beckwourth alongside an empty grave with the name “Nat Love”, thereby faking his death to avoid arrest.
Reeves promises to report Love’s death, and Cuffee expresses an interest in joining Reeves in law enforcement. Love rides off with Fields into the distance as they wish to build a new life together.
Not over yet
In the last few seconds of the movie, as the couple rides off together, we see Trudy Smith. Still alive, despite being bashed on the face by Fields, implying that Nat Love’s story has not quite come to an end yet.