Before The Harder They Fall, Check Out The Prequel Starring Michael K. Williams

"The Harder They Fall" director Jeymes Samuel is breathing new life into the Old West. His swaggering, hip-hop Western is quickly approaching release, with an all-star Black cast and more style than a single film should contain. Samuel will no doubt make waves with this feature but, believe it or not, it's not his first time helming a star-studded, bombastic Black Western. The last one was just shorter.

Years before willing "The Harder They Fall" into existence, Samuel premiered his first short film at SXSW. "They Die By Dawn" is a cowboy epic, featuring many of the same characters set to arrive to Netflix next month. It almost works as a prequel, which is one of the many reasons you should check it out before his newest Western arrives in theaters.

Here's a hint at what you're missing — you can watch the trailer for "They Die By Dawn" below.

They Die By Dawn

Okay, fine, "They Die By Dawn" isn't a prequel in the traditional sense. Though the characters in both films share names and are based on the same set of historical figures, the stories occur in entirely different worlds. However, the film is the perfect precursor because it's an introduction to the filmmaking style of Jeymes Samuel, the man behind both stunning reclamations of the Wild West. "They Die By Dawn" sees four outlaws, each with a bounty on their head, set a date for a shootout that will allow the last man standing to walk away a very rich winner. And in typical Western fashion, violence and mayhem ensue. The film is jam packed with incredible performers, including Michael K. Williams, Erykah Badu, Isaiah Washington, Nate Parker, Jessie Williams, Rosario Dawson, and Felicia Pearson. 

Samuel does a lot in only 50 minutes — showing off his knowledge of the genre, mixing it with his passion of music. All in all, he proves how close the story is to his heart. If you only know him for his filmmaking, it becomes immediately clear that Jeymes Samuel works magic with music. And if "They Die By Dawn" isn't enough to hold you over until "The Harder They Fall" finally arrives, then good news — there's more. Samuel is a longtime lover of the Western genre and mined it for inspiration before devoting time to filmmaking. 

They Die By Dawn ... And Other Short Stories

Samuel is known to many as The Bullits, the right-hand man and producing partner to Jay-Z. To give you a sense of their ability to bridge music and film, the pair previously collaborated on the companion album for Baz Luhrman's "The Great Gatsby," blending elegant jazz tunes with momentous hip-hop bangers. Not long after, The Bullits produced his debut album, "They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories." Familiar name, right? The album was released just months apart from the short film. If it isn't already exceedingly obvious, Jeymes Samuel has a thing for Westerns. The album and its collection of songs is another intro into his approach to both Westerns and storytelling.

Naturally, when the time came for Jeymes Samuel's first feature, he had to continue the good work of revitalizing Westerns. With "The Harder They Fall," Samuel assembles Black historical figures like they're the Avengers. The film's characters — Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), "Treacherous" Trudy Smith (Regina King), "Stagecoach" Mary Fields (Zazie Beetz), "Cherokee" Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), and Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo) — were all real living, breathing historical figures. These Black cowboys, so rarely seen on screen, earned their place in history. But in truth, they lived in various times through the 19th century, with no proof that they ever met one another. There's no evidence that Nat Love and Rufus Buck ever crossed paths, but the film traces a decades-long vendetta between the pair. But "The Harder They Fall" is no biopic — it need not make historical sense. As Samuel puts it best, at the start of the film, "While the events of this story are fictional ... These. People. Existed."

"The Harder They Fall" arrives in select theaters on October 22, 2021, and will be available to stream on Netflix starting November 3, 2021.