Watch The Harder They Fall
- 1 hr 49 min
The Harder They Fall is a 1956 film noir starring legendary actor Humphrey Bogart as Eddie Willis, a down-on-his-luck sportswriter who's hired to help promote a seemingly unbeatable boxer named Toro Moreno (Mike Lane) as he makes his way through the ranks of the boxing world. However, as Willis soon discovers, Toro is not the unstoppable force he's been made out to be. In fact, he's a total fraud, a mere puppet of unscrupulous promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger), who exploits the boxer's reputation for his own financial gain.
Despite the moral implications of the situation, Willis initially agrees to continue hyping up Toro, as he himself is desperate for work and increasingly drawn to the money and status that come with the sports world. He's also taken with the boxer's doe-eyed girlfriend, Beth (Jan Sterling), who sees through her boyfriend's charade but is powerless to change things. However, as Willis spends more time around Toro and sees firsthand the toll that the brutal sport is taking on his body and mind, he begins to feel guilty about his involvement in the whole scheme.
The Harder They Fall is more than just a typical sports movie, however. It's a searing indictment of the boxing industry and its tendency to use its fighters for profit and entertainment while discarding them when they're no longer useful. The film pulls no punches in depicting the physical and emotional toll that boxing takes on its athletes, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds who have few other options in life. It's a bleak, uncompromising portrait of a world that is both seductive and grotesque.
At the center of the film is Bogart's performance as Eddie Willis, one of his last before his untimely death the following year. Bogart brings a world-weary cynicism to the role that feels perfectly in step with the film's overall tone. His interactions with the other characters, particularly Steiger's slimy promoter, are rife with tension and suspicion. There's a sense that everyone in this world is trying to get one over on everyone else, and Willis is no exception.
The supporting cast is equally strong, with Steiger giving one of his most colorful and memorable performances as Benko. He's the slimy used car salesman of boxing promoters, constantly trying to charm and wheedle his way to the top. Sterling is equally impressive as Beth, a woman who knows the truth about Toro but is too caught up in the glitz and glamour of the sports world to do anything about it. Lane, who plays the hapless boxer at the center of the film, is also excellent, bringing a sense of innocence and naivete to the role that makes his character's downfall all the more tragic.
Director Mark Robson, who had previously worked on films like The Seventh Victim and The Champion, brings a gritty realism to The Harder They Fall that is atypical of boxing movies of the time. While films like Rocky and Raging Bull would eventually use the sport as a metaphor for the American dream or as a vehicle for personal redemption, The Harder They Fall makes no such concessions. This is a movie about exploitation and corruption, and Robson doesn't shy away from depicting the uglier aspects of the sport (including some graphic depictions of injuries sustained by Toro and his opponents).
Overall, The Harder They Fall is a gripping and thought-provoking look at the seedy underbelly of the boxing world. It's an unflinching condemnation of the way that athletes are used and discarded for sport, fame, and profit. With strong performances and a powerful message, it's a film that still feels relevant and resonant more than sixty years after its release.
The Harder They Fall is a 1956 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 49 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.5.