The Harder They Fall Plot Synopsis
The Harder They Fall is a classic revenge Western, but a really stylish and visually stunning picture too.
The story opens with a young boy called Nat Love forced to watch his parents being brutally murdered at the hands of ruthless outlaw Rufus Buck and his crew.
When Love steals from the Crimson Hood gang many years later, he’s promised that it won’t end well. And when Rufus Buck is freed by his fellow gang members after serving time before bars, that only ramps up the tension. He teams up with several ruthless outlaws, including Treacherous Trudy and Cherokee Bill, determined to take back what Love has stolen. Only, Love is desperate to gain his revenge on Buck too, setting up a show-stopping showdown between the pair.
Who dies in the shootout?
For most of this movie, the cat and mouse game continues, with both teams preparing their troops before the final showdown. When Stagecoach Mary arrives in town before the others, Rufus Buck senses an opportunity and kidnaps her, holding the young woman hostage.
This prompts Nat Love, Pickett, Beckworth, Cuffee and the infamous Bass Reeves to rock up in town and execute a rescue mission; it’s your classic damsel in distress trope.
The shootout ensues and Cherokee kills Pickett after he lets his guard down. He may have got lucky with a bullet through his coin during an earlier skirmish, but he has no such luck here; he’s shot square in the back. He also kills Beckworth too while Cuffee watches on in horror.
In retaliation, Cuffee kills Cherokee as the fighting starts to simmer down a bit. This comes right on the cusp of Mary fighting with Treacherous Trudy. Tellingly, Mary doesn’t kill Trudy, something which may come back to haunt her later on down the line.
What truth is Buck hiding?
Eventually all this fighting leads to Nat Love confronting Buck in his office. With a tumbler of whiskey, Rufus refuses to pick up his gun and instead talks about his awful upbringing.
His father was a monster, relentlessly beating down him and his mother before finally leaving. He left the pair a broken mess and Rufus was ten years old at the time – the same age that Nat Love is now.
Rufus Buck, hell-bent on revenge, eventually found his father, sober and living a completely different life. He was a man of God and had a pretty wife and a son… about ten years old. It’s here the shocking truth is laid bare for all to see – Nat Love is actually Rufus Buck’s brother!
Rufus Buck refuses to kill his brother, and implores Love to finish this cycle of revenge himself. As Buck calls him Nathaniel Buck – instead of Nat Love – it’s the last straw and he finally kills his brother.
Inside Rufus’s jacket Nat finds the gold ring, and symbolically draws an invisible cross across his forehead before leaving.
Why did Buck scar Nat Love with a cross?
So the cross has many meanings here, most notably (and on the surface level) serving as a brand for Buck to remember in later life. Given Nat Love has his blood coursing through his veins, he’s convinced that Nat Love will try to exact revenge – just like he did. This would also allow Rufus to recognize his brother when this inevitably occurs.
The cross could also hold more significance than that, and run deeper into the literal meeting of two lines. This creates two unique, often contradictory, principles like the meeting of heaven and earth or that of God and man. This would make sense when it comes to Buck and Love, who have very different interpretations of how they live their lives but yet, are both bound by revenge and the same bloodline.
How does The Harder They Fall end?
After killing Rufus Buck, Nat Love is a changed soul (typified by the music playing in the background). He hugs Stagecoach Mary, who asks whether the devil is dead. “I don’t know,” He says back softly. This could well be a reference back to Nat’s lineage and how he’ll always have to carry the Buck name with him wherever he goes.
Just outside town, Mary and Nat set up crosses next to Bill Pickett, making it seem like they all died in the shootout. With their cover presumably intact, Nat and Mary take off to parts unknown, riding into the wilderness. Only, as the camera pans out, it seems Treacherous Trudy is still alive.
Will Trudy get her revenge?
The ending leaves things wide open for where The Harder They Fall may go if a sequel is green-lit. With Nat Love and Mary gone, it would seem as if Trudy will track them down and try to gain revenge for Buck’s death. It certainly sets up an interesting conflict for a potential sequel, turning the tables and seeing Trudy go after the pair.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this is renewed but The Harder They Fall has been an undeniably enjoyable western.
Read More: The Harder They Fall Movie Review
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