Monday, March 5, 2012

The Harder They Come

Ivan is an impoverished yet high spirited young man who leaves his country home for the big city of Kingston, Jamaica in hopes of success as a reggae musician. Instead he draws the ire of a fire breathing reverend with whom he finds employ, and is taken advantage of by a record company crime lord. Soon, driven to murder and on the run with his new single as the top drawing hit, Ivan has become an underground hero and the number one target of the police. Perry Henzell's blaxploitation film "The Harder They Come" is significant for exporting ska music to America and introducing the world to its star Jimmy Cliff. While the film is famous for its soundtrack, we are really only given the title track, which is played repeatedly during the movie, and two or three other songs, which are excellent nonetheless. As for the film itself, what starts off as a gritty story about an engaging underdog soon turns vile and nasty (as I assume that most of these films do) as our hero turns to an unrepentant and murderous life of crime. While Cliff's performance and songs elevate the film, its message is unsettling, as I'm sure is as intended.