Warning: This article contains spoilers for the final scene of Netflix’s “The Harder They Fall.” If you haven’t seen the film, check out these features on the movie’s origins and the real-life people who inspired the characters, and then come back after watching.
Jeymes Samuel’s “The Harder They Fall” ends with a twist.
After hunting down Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) for years, Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) and his gang face off against Buck’s in a showdown that leaves members of both sides dead.
Finally faced with the man who killed his parents, Love is confronted with a truth he’s unprepared for: The two are cut from the same cloth, both sons of a man who himself was violent and vengeful.
“It was so tear-jerking and gripping,” said Samuel, whose own father passed away when he was young. “In Rufus Buck’s mansion, there’s a picture of a Black man on the wall just by the stairs. And when Rufus Buck is speaking to Nat Love, that picture is between them at times. That painting is of my father. So while they were talking about their father, all of us going through that scene and the crew looking at it on monitors all broke down in tears afterward. It was a really heavy scene to shoot.”
That twist emphasizes the central theme of the film about the cycle of violence and its particular effect on the Black community. “There’s nothing but doom on this road,” said Samuel. “Cherokee Bill tells everyone that from the beginning of the movie.
“I wanted to tell a story where the antagonist and the protagonist are essentially the same person doing the exact same thing. It’s a never-ending loop of violence that we are sucked into, and I wanted to not preach but to shine a light on what happens all too often in our community.”
Rather than just the convention of a hero conquering a villain, Samuel wanted to go deeper — an instinct matched by Elba and Majors’ performances in the final confrontation.
“In order for me to pass commentary on my experience and the story that I wanted to tell, it had to end with a question and an answer,” Samuel added. “‘Is the devil dead?’ ‘I don’t know.’ Because you become what you kill. Nat Love can’t hear the word ‘Buck’ as his last name. And then what do you do? This man killed [Nat’s] parents — someone has to get murked. That’s the only way it could have ended for me.”