‘The Harder They Fall’ is a frenzied modern western tale of revenge that follows Nat Love as he takes on the man that killed his parents. Through all the blazing gunfights, the central rivalry between our hero and his sinister nemesis, Rufus Buck, forms the film’s overarching plot.
The film seems to have taken cues from actual historical figures from the cowboy era, and its fearsome antagonist seems like a likely candidate. But did a real-life Rufus Buck actually live? And what does the film tell us about the Rufus Buck Gang? We decided to take a trip back to the ol’ West and find out the answers.
Who Was The Rufus Buck Gang?
The Rufus Buck Gang is a group of outlaws that assist the film’s central antagonist, Rufus Buck. After his arrest by Marshall Bass Reeves, the gang begins to splinter, and their stronghold, the town of Redwood, is taken over by a former gang member who installs himself as the Sheriff. What remains of the Rufus Buck Gang is controlled by his accomplice, Treacherous Trudy, who keeps their operation alive and eventually succeeds in getting Rufus released from custody.
Once it becomes known that Rufus is free, other gangs like the Crimson Hood Gang join the Rufus Buck Gang, forming a veritable army. Other notable members of the gang, as portrayed in ‘The Harder They Fall,’ include sharpshooter Cherokee Bill, who is widely known for his lightning-fast gun work.
Interestingly, the Rufus Buck Gang actually existed in real life and was a mixed ethnicity group of outlaws consisting mainly of members who were part African American and part Cherokee Indian. Though this isn’t elaborated in the film, Cherokee Bill’s final words are said in the Native American language. The real Rufus Buck Gang was much smaller than depicted and reportedly consisted of only five teenaged members who went on a two-week crime spree in 1895 around what is now Oklahoma. They were apprehended after their brief rampage and put to death by hanging on July 1, 1896.
Was Rufus Buck a Real Cowboy?
As you can imagine, Rufus Buck was, in fact, a real cowboy. However, if you’re picturing a character like Idris Elba’s grizzled villain from the movie, then you’re mistaken. Like the rest of the members of his gang, Rufus Buck was also a teenager of around 18 years when he was hung for his crimes. As leader of the gang, it is rumored he boasted that his gang’s criminal record would make all the other gangs of the territory seem insignificant. Though that remains unconfirmed, he and the rest of his gang, which consisted of Sam Sampson, Maoma July, and brothers Lewis and Lucky Davis, certainly gained notoriety with their brief but brutal spree.
The violence seemingly had a deeper motive, and Rufus apparently hoped the crimes would instill fear and trigger an uprising against the White majority in the territory and expel them. This aspect has been loosely transposed into ‘The Harder They Fall’ as well, with the fictional Rufus Buck claiming to make Redwood a haven for people of color so they do not have to fear losing their lands to the encroaching settlers.
Read More: Movies Like The Harder They Fall