‘The Harder They Fall‘ is a western action drama that follows a tale of revenge. After seeing his parents brutally murdered, Nat Love embarks on a life of killing and robbery in search of the man that killed them. Decades later, he comes face to face with the notorious gang leader and prepares to finally avenge his family.
Featuring a host of intriguing characters and set in a time when bank robberies and duels are commonplace, director Jeymes Samuel’s modern western paints a stylish and frantic image that likely had you on the edge of your seat. The film finishes strong, with a climax that is emotionally complex and yet extremely satisfying. Let’s take a closer look at the ending of ‘The Harder They Fall’ and make sure we’ve picked up on all its nuances. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Harder They Fall Plot Synopsis
The film opens with Nat Love as a child watching his parents get murdered by Rufus Buck. Before leaving, the ruthless outlaw takes a knife to young Nat’s face and carves a cross on his forehead. We are then taken a few decades into the future, where a grown-up Nat and his gang (which consists of Bill and Jim) intercept a gang of hooded bank robbers known as the Crimson Hood Gang. Nat and his allies make quick work of the hooded gang and make off with the $25,000 that the gang initially stole from a bank. It is then revealed that Nat is a self-righteous criminal who only steals from outlaws but never banks or innocent people.
Back at the saloon, Nat reunites with his past gang member and flame Mary and informs her that he has successfully eliminated every person from his list of enemies except for Rufus, who is in prison. However, word soon reaches him that Rufus has been pardoned for his crimes and released. To make matters worse, smaller gangs are now flocking to rejoin the Rufus Buck Gang. Along with the veteran Marshall Bass Reeves, who was responsible for putting Rufus behind bars the first time, Nat sets off to kill the last and most significant person on his list of enemies.
Meanwhile, the newly released Rufus regains control of the town of Redwood, which he envisions as a Black haven that will hold out against racist settlers. However, with the $25,000 now in the hands of Nat and his gang, Rufus is left in dire need of money to rebuild his town and gang. When Mary visits Redwood under the pretext of wanting to buy a saloon in the town, Rufus sees through her lies and captures her. He then uses her life as a bargaining chip to force Nat to rob a bank and give him the proceeds along with the previous sum that the Crimson Hood Gang stole.
The Harder They Fall Ending: Does Nat Love Kill Rufus Buck?
Nat successfully steals from the bank of a neighboring town and arrives in Redwood with his accomplices and the princely sum of $35,000. Before handing it over to Rufus’ men, our vengeful hero causes an explosion and proceeds to attack. In the ferocious gunfight that follows, multiple members of both gangs are killed.
Nat eventually enters Rufus’ house to put an end to the long rivalry but finds his enemy sitting at his desk. The latter then launches into a story and claims that he and Nat are brothers. In shock and disbelief, Nat finally pulls the trigger multiple times and empties his revolver, riddling Rufus with bullets.
As the film begins to wind down, Marshall Reeves resumes his duties along with Mary’s ferocious gatekeeper Cuffee, who joins him as a deputy. Nat and Mary also head off together, merely saying that they have a lot to do before departing. In the closing scenes, we then see the back of a woman holding a bowler hat, watching them from afar.
So, Nat is able to get his revenge and finally kills Rufus more than thirty years after the latter killed his parents. Though he hesitates when Rufus informs him they are brothers, it is also clear that his mind is made up, and Nat keeps firing into his rival’s chest until he runs out of bullets. However, before leaving, he fixes Rufus’ clothes and makes sure that the man looks dignified in death.
Does Nat Love Die?
A brief scene near the end depicts the graves of Nat’s fellow gang members Bill and Jim. Next to it, we also see Nat Love’s grave. However, the following scene shows us that Nat is alive and well. It is then revealed that the grave is a decoy to make the authorities think that Nat is dead. Since our hero is a wanted man, being considered dead by the authorities allows him to take on a new identity and move around freely without being constantly chased.
However, there seems to also be a more profound message with Nat’s grave. According to Rufus, he and Nat are brothers who share the same father. After killing Rufus’ mother, his abusive father abandoned Rufus and started a new life with another wife, who eventually bore Nat. This is revealed to be the reason that Rufus killed Nat’s parents.
However, the grizzled criminal reveals that his true revenge came when he saw Nat turn into a criminal, something their father would have never wanted for him. When Nat hears this, he realizes that Rufus is right. The father that he knew (who reformed his ways after abandoning Rufus) was a god-fearing priest who always preached goodness to his son.
Therefore, our hero realizes that he has, in fact, become a person that his father would detest. Therefore, the grave at the end with the name “Nat Love” on it symbolizes how he is now putting his criminal identity to rest and reforming his ways. Considering Nat essentially took up a life of crime to avenge his parents’ death, with Rufus dead, our hero’s mission is complete.
Do Nat and Mary End Up Together?
Despite Mary insisting that she and Nat go their separate ways when “the dust settles,” it seems like the two do end up together at the end. Mary had so far avoided being with Nat and gone so far as to reject his marriage proposal because of his constant criminal activities. Now, with Nat likely giving up a life of crime and donning a new identity, he essentially removes the only barrier that had so far come between him and Mary. Considering the latter has a highly successful salon business, it seems like Nat will join her.
Who is the Woman at the End with the Bowler Hat?
The film closes with a woman watching Nat, Mary, Cuffee, and Marshall Reeves from a distance. Though we don’t see her face, the round bowler hat is a dead giveaway, and we can infer that the woman is Trudy, Rufus’ second-in-command. During the climax, she is bludgeoned in the face with the butt of a rifle and passes out.
However, it is clear that she does not die, and Trudy may now look for revenge from Mary, who is the one that bludgeoned her. Considering most of her (and Rufus’) gang is dead, Trudy will likely need to build up her forces before she can attack. However, the fact that she is stalking Nat and his associates strongly hints that she is plotting revenge in some form.