The Harder They Fall to Widows: the seven best films to watch on TV this week
Pick of the week
The Harder They Fall
Wednesday 3 November, Netflix
The fact that a western with an almost entirely Black cast is surprising says a lot about the genre’s partiality down the decades. Director and co-writer Jeymes Samuel is here to change all that, taking real historical figures and letting them fly in a kinetic drama with more than a nod to the modern stylings of Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, but which still loves a good spaghetti western closeup. Jonathan Majors is in endearing form as outlaw Nat Love, whose revenge mission after his parents are killed leads him to Idris Elba’s bad guy Rufus Buck. The likes of Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield and Delroy Lindo give classy support in a fun, bloody revisioning.
Saturday 30 October, 10.40pm, BBC Two
Pity the poor parents whose child decides to dress up as Linda Blair’s Regan for Halloween this year. As voiced by Mercedes McCambridge, she is a potty-mouthed, projectile-vomiting demon with no respect for a cross. This fantastic creation sears herself into the memory in William Friedkin’s seminal 1973 horror, as her mother Ellen Burstyn and Catholic priests Jason Miller and Max von Sydow struggle to save the possessed 12-year-old girl. Beyond the revolving heads and creepy subliminal imagery, it is also an affecting exploration of faith and guilt.
Sunday, 9pm, Channel 4
Steve McQueen relocates Lynda La Plante’s 80s ITV series about criminals’ wives to Chicago for this 2018 thriller, giving it a socio-political dimension reminiscent of John Sayles’s great City of Hope. Viola Davis is the drama’s steely centre as Veronica, widow of Liam Neeson’s Harry, who inherits a debt to Brian Tyree Henry’s would-be alderman after Harry’s gang die. So she asks the other bereft spouses, Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), to join her in a heist. The generic side is handled expertly, but the moral complexity gives the film its weight.
Let the Right One In
Sunday, 12.05am, BBC Two
When a bullied boy meets a vampire girl they find common cause in their loneliness, and ultimately some kind of love, in Tomas Alfredson’s masterful 2008 Swedish horror film. Kåre Hedebrant plays Oskar, who befriends new neighbour Eli (Lina Leandersson), a pale, watchful, slightly chilly 12-year-old who is secretly a blood-sucker preying on the residents of their depressing suburban estate. The wintry setting creates an atmosphere of clammy stillness and dread, punctuated by brief moments of grisly violence.
A Cop Movie
Here’s a curious experiment in documentary-making. Following Mexico City cop Teresa, Alonso Ruizpalacios’s film initially feels like staged reality – a night-time callout to a woman in labour is shot in dramatic fashion – as we also meet Teresa’s colleague/boyfriend Montoya. It is soon revealed that they are actors, with their training compared to the real officers they are playing. Through all this genre-twisting, a depressing story of hard work, underfunding and quotidian corruption emerges.
Friday, 9.55am, Great! Movies Action
A righteous anger permeates Bruce Beresford’s 1980 war drama, featuring Edward Woodward at his most compelling (The Wicker Man excepted). His English-born Harry Morant, an Australian lieutenant fighting in a guerrilla unit of the British army during the Boer war, is accused at a court martial of war crimes after the killings of prisoners and civilians in the Northern Transvaal. Despite the facts of the case, Beresford prints the legend: pointing up the Australia v British empire angle, he shows us a man, driven to extremes by conflict, who was just following orders.
Attack the Block
Friday, 2am, Film4
Before they found global fame in venerable sci-fi franchises, John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker starred in Joe Cornish’s small but pleasingly formed 2011 alien invasion horror. His teen street gang leader and her frazzled nurse have to join forces on Bonfire Night when their south London estate is overrun by furry extraterrestrials with glow-in-the dark gnashers. The corridors and lifts of the high-rises and the surrounding concrete jungle of car parks and raised walkways are used to atmospheric effect. The seasonal fireworks come in handy, too.