The Harder They Come

Directed by Perry Henzell

> > Apr 2003

The Harder They Come - Directed by Perry Henzell
By David DacksThis film put Jamaican music firmly in America's consciousness. Jamaica's music had long been enjoyed in Britain, but it wasn't until this film became popular that the baby boomer, Rolling Stone-reading rock fan started embracing reggae. The Harder They Come predated Bob Marley's success, and its notoriety increased along with Marley's fame. Jimmy Cliff is fantastic as Ivan, the country-boy singer who tries to make it in Kingston's music business. He is rejected and his vengeful tendencies propel him into assault and cop killing. He becomes an outlaw, whereupon his recordings become hits. The age-old story arc ends with him being gunned down by the cops, la Butch Cassidy. This was the first depiction of Jamaica's urban culture and music industry, and if you've never seen it, the DVD is a great place to check out the film. This isn't mastered from a clean print, but at least the lighting is better and the sound clearer than at any screening. Director Perry Henzell's greatest strength is in capturing the atmosphere of Kingston and the surrounding area. The plot and dialogue are far from Oscar calibre the music/movie's premise of Cliff as a man who must "try and try to succeed at last" is questionable but the night club scenes (with Prince Buster as DJ) and the epic chillum-smoking sessions are unforgettable. Then there's the music every song on the soundtrack is a classic and is a celebration of the very best that rock steady and reggae had to offer in 1972. Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Dekker and the Melodians all make essential contributions. Despite the specific period covered, the gritty atmosphere still evokes aspects of Jamaican culture. Although released at the height of the blaxploitation period, The Harder They Come is more properly viewed alongside films like Black Orpheus, where non-American and European urban stories were first explored in an evocative, though mythic, way. Extras: actor filmographies; "making of" featurette. (Xenon, www.xenonpictures.com)
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Latest Issue: Apr 03 Issue