The Harder They Come Reviews
In his acting debut, we get musician Jimmy Cliff as Ivan, a young man from the country who comes to Kingston to try to make a better life for himself. He dreams of hitting it big as a music star, and, while that does happen, he gets caught up in the world of being an outlaw as well. The story has the familiar ring of rags to riches, dealing with fame and success, but ultimately gets saved by a solid lead performance, and a superb reggae soundtrack provided by Cliff, The Maytals, and a few others.
Also, it is my understanding that this film was also the first time where wide audiences were shown a clear divide between the Jamaica of the tourism industry, and how it really is. It's not so revelatory now, but I'm sure this was quite something back in the early 70s. Thankfully the film is merely showing and telling it like it is, as opposed to being an exploitative venture into the dark underbelly of a supposed paradise. This revealing of how it is also includes jabs as the country's music scene, and the inherent corruption involved with it.
I dug this film a lot, but I don't think it's quite the landmark as its often labeled. Don't get me wrong, it's is quite good, but it didn't grab me like it has a lot of others. It's worth seeing though, especially if you dig reggae, and, if you're not familiar with Jamaica, the film does have occasional subtitles, which are nice since sometimes the accents are so thick, and the manner of speaking is so strong that the film would be all but incomprehensible otherwise for non-natives.
All in all, this is a pretty good time. It's a tad overrated, but enjoyable nonetheless.
I first saw this in a cinema in 1995 and it was fully subtitled, I watched it again last night and it had no subtitles. It was slightly hard to follow some of the very thick dialogue so I suggest if you have the choice that you go for the subtitles unless patwa is a very familiar dialect to you.
The plot takes swipes at the exploitative music business but also the nature of celebrity and the problems of drugs. However at it's heart it's a reggae gangster movie that is gritty and enjoyable. The story is involving but really it's the detail of the setting that carries the film. The camera allows a great sense of place and really captures the mood and place well, using crowd shots and wandering shots to music. Really the best scenes are all natural as music plays in the fore ground.
The music is one of the strongest aspects to the film ? where the gangster element is sprawling and relaxed, the music allows us to accept this whole chilled out vibe as just part of the film. The cast also helps greatly by being very realistic without much effort, not trying to make the accent easier is a brave move if you want to sell the film! Cliff is easily believable and very watchable, likewise almost all the cast are great ? many not being actors.
Overall the plot may wander in the way only a Jamaican can! But the music and the vibe more than make this a cult film that is well worth watching whether with subtitles or not!
[font=Century Gothic]"The Harder They Come" is not exactly polished filmmaking. The film does take a dubious turn in the second half but it is helped by a catchy soundtrack and something of a social conscience.(For example, there is no shortcut to fame and fortune.) And a very important conversation happens towards the end of the film which sums everything up nicely...[/font]
Sure, it may not really pass the test of time too well, but the music gives the movie another edge that others lack. In a weird way, it's like a crime thriller musical set in Jamaica with reggae. It's strange, yet oddly satisfying. Nonetheless, the soundtrack is great and one of the main reasons to watch this movie, otherwise on it's own it's a fun grindhouse-y flick. Pretty decent for a movie night or something.
PROS: Great soundtrack, entertaining plot, some awesome editing moments
CONS: Slow start, hard to follow