Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef) is a bounty hunter, and he doesn't care if the man he hunts down has since reformed by the time he catches up with him, he's going to kill the guy and take back his body to collect his reward, as he does today, for a mere two hundred dollars. But there's a chance of making some real money when he hears about a wealthy landowner and cattle farmer (Dana Andrews) who has recently died and left his fortune to his right hand man Pike (Jim Brown) on the condition he takes it to Mexico and starts over in a place where the racial prejudice he suffers in the United States won't apply...
Although often classified as a Spaghetti Western, Take a Hard Ride had more to do with Spain, was shot in the Canaries, and cast with mostly American actors, though one Italian connection was with its director Antonio Margheriti, here adopting his Anthony M. Dawson pseudonym. If you didn't care much where the Western you were watching hailed from, it would likely be that cast which was the main draw as this effort reunited the stars of the previous year's Three the Hard Way, a farfetched but highly amusing action thriller with adventure overtones. Step forward Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, all putting up a degree of strong opposition to Van Cleef's villainy.
For extra spice, Brown and Williamson's characters were somewhat antagonistic in spite of being on the same side, as Williamson's gambler Tyree wants to get his hands on the loot just as much as those avaricious cowboys do, and he's not shy about admitting it, merely happy to tell Pike he will assist him all the way South of the Border then make his move on those saddlebags of cash. Kelly entered into this as his Indian Kashtok is encountered when Pike and Tyree prevent a woman (Catherine Spaak) being attacked on the trail, he busts some kung fu moves as the fans he had won over after his cult star making performance in Enter the Dragon wanted to see.
Quite how an Indian brave learned those moves is never discussed - Kashtok can't discuss anything much, someone cut out his tongue a while back, which has Kelly leaving his fists and feet to do the talking, plus a bit of mute emoting when the scene called for it: if it were not for a strong cast, he might have stolen the show. However, he was more a supporting player to the sparring of Brown and Williamson, which was leading up to a sequence both sets of their fans (though to be fair, there must have been quite some crossover there) wanted to witness, which was the answer to a pressing question. Who would win in a fight? Thus there comes a time in the movie where the two blaxploitation greats start brawling.
Not that you actually get a decent answer, which might have indicated the answer was they were both equally tough, the only sensible way to resolve it, really. Meanwhile, Kiefer gets ever closer, and the word has gotten around to stop two black guys from riding South, except they don't call them black guys. If nothing else, the Westerns of the blaxploitation stars attempted to redress the balance of what had been a very white genre for decades by pointing out there were indeed African-American cowboys no matter what it looked like in all those John Wayne flicks, and if these never particularly spawned a classic, they did give rise to a number of entertaining works, and Take a Hard Ride was one of those. Its reputation isn't that high, truth be told, but if you approached it with an open mind and an appreciation of cult actors doing what they were best at, then you could have a pretty good time here. A few thrills, a few laughs, and Hal Needham's better than they needed to be stunts added up to a pleasing diversion, not to mention a fine Jerry Goldsmith score.