With apologies to Ryan George, and instead of my usual movie review format, let’s peek in at a pitch meeting in Hollywood:
Producer: I have an idea for a movie.
Studio Head: Oh, yeah? What’s the genre?
Producer: It’s a western.
Studio Head: A western? There haven’t been any good westerns in the last couple of decades. How is yours different?
Producer: Almost everyone in it is Black.
Studio Head: Oh, yeah?
Producer: Yep. Black cowboys, Black outlaws, Black sheriff, Black marshall, Black townspeople.
Studio Head: OK. What’s the story?
Producer: Did I mention they’re all Black?
Studio Head: Yes, I got that. Now tell me the basics of the story.
Producer: We have Idris Elba and Delroy Lindo.
Studio Head: And what do they do?
Producer: We also have LaKeith Stanfield, Damon Wayans Jr., and Deon Cole.
Studio Head: You still haven’t told me the story.
Producer: Well, there’s a gang of bad guys and a gang of good guys and they get into it over some stolen money.
Studio Head: That’s it?
Producer: No, that’s not it. We also have Regina King and Zazie Beetz.
Studio Head: Do they play the usual female stereotypes in Westerns, like bar owners and sex workers?
Producer: No, they’re badass women who are also members of the gangs.
Studio Head: Does that mean you’ll eventually get them into a brawl where they have to fight hand-to-hand with whatever objects are around?
Producer: Hey, you read my mind. Also, we bought a bowler hat for Regina King and it fits her perfectly.
Studio Head: OK, I’m still not sure there’s much of a story here.
Producer: Did I mention there will be a lot of blood? I mean so many blood spurts Quentin Tarantino will think we overdid it.
Studio Head: So a lot of people get shot?
Producer: Yes, in the head, the body, the foot, every body part, because, uh, did I mention it’s a western?
Studio Head: Every time you say that, instead of getting more information about the plot, I hear a harmonica around a campfire.
Producer: Oh, no, we’re going to use contemporary music for the soundtrack. Think Jay-Z and CeeLo Green.
Studio Head: So, it will be era-inappropriate?
Producer: I prefer to call it era-agnostic.
Studio Head: But you have the rights to the Jimmy Cliff song, right?
Producer: What’s that now?
Studio Head: The Jimmy Cliff reggae classic, “The Harder They Fall.” That’s where the title of the movie comes from, isn’t it?
Producer: Um, never heard of it.
Studio Head: That’s odd. How about filling in some of the dramatic holes for me?
Producer: I mentioned that everyone’s Black in the movie, didn’t I?
Studio Head: Yes, but that’s not a plot, that’s a casting decision.
Producer: I think that’s all I need to make this a runaway hit.
Studio Head: Well, I think you’re a little thin on storyline. I’m not sure about this whole project.
Producer: If you don’t buy it, Netflix will.
Studio Head: Yeah, good luck with that!
It turns out Netflix did buy “The Harder They Fall,” and it’s now streaming. If you’re a fan of western movie cliches but have been itching to see them played out by a Black cast, this is the movie for you. But I felt it came up really short, so — even with that first-rate cast — I can’t give it more than a 4 out of 10.