The Harder They Come Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 15, 2012
This is probably the most well-known and important film to come from Jamaica. And, while it might not have been intentional, you could also lump this in as a blaxploitation film if you so desired.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ October 30, 2011
A must see for anyone interested in Reggae music. A totally authentic look at Kingston in the early 1970's.
Super Reviewer
½ October 12, 2010
It makes up in talent what it lacks in budget. Amazing songs, feeling of sheer authenticity, social commentary and gripping guerrilla filmmaking
Super Reviewer
October 16, 2009
Ivan is a country boy in Jamaica who comes to see his Grandmother and `make it big' by recording a record. However when he finds himself exploited by a record producer he turns to drug running to make money. When he kills a cop who is in on the trade he goes on the run and finds fame as an outlaw standing up against `the man'.

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!
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2008
Groundbreaking Jamaican classic film from the early 1970's that has become a cult classic in its own right and made Reggae icon Jimmy Cliff a international superstar. The soundtrack to this film is vintage wine and it is timeless,
Super Reviewer
January 11, 2008
groundbreaking jamaican gangster film that introduced reggae to the world. jimmy cliff plays rude boy ivan who moves to the city and becomes an outlaw and folk hero. based on a true story, this film was a sensation in the 70's. extra half star for the awesome soundtrack. and thank god for subtitles!
Super Reviewer
½ October 18, 2006
It plays like a mix between Scarface and City of God, with a bit of blacksploitation thrown in. The lead character starts out with nothing, and tries to gain things honestly before turning to crime, and becoming an even bigger success. A cult film, that takes place in Jamaica, it's easy to believe you can watch this more and more, and like it more. The reggae soundtrack is also very nicely done. For a movie from the 70s like this, the camera work is also very nice, and so are the characters involved. A cool groove of a movie.
Super Reviewer
December 23, 2005
[font=Century Gothic]In "The Harder They Come", a poor young man from the country, Ivan(Jimmy Cliff), has ventured to the city to deliver money from his grandmother's estate to his mother. He wants to remain in the city to pursue a recording career. After a frustrating search for any kind of employment, he finds a job and shelter with a preacher. Ivan takes more than a platonic interest in the preacher's favorite, Elsa(Janet Barkley), thus setting up things for a showdown...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[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]
October 14, 2012
It's definitely interesting to get a look out at 70's Jamaica, since it's something we don't see very often portrayed in movies. While, the movie starts slow, but ends up being a fairly entertaining romp. The movie is obviously fairly low budget, but it doesn't work against what the movie is going for. The actors are decent, the action is fun, and the editing is great.

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
½ March 27, 2010
a struggling man with a will to make it, yet had to do it all on his own, with his back against the world. He made it... Great movie... his music became an icon.
January 2, 2010
Perhaps this would have played better with me had I seen it in the 70s and not been familiar with the tunes. I think Jimmy Cliff's performance is good, but the plot is a bit too outrageous for me. Like when the kids are chasing after him when he's in a shootout. Give me a break!!!!
July 28, 2009
OH hot stepper, you do so many dutty crimes (Nyabinghi!) And plus you're fully skylarking all the time!
½ January 8, 2008
Great films are born of substance, not budget. The Harder They Come is a perfect example. Because of an obviously low budget, everything here-- from the acting to the cinematography to the story itself-- is so raw and honest, it feels like a documentary and only lends to the overall product. The soundtrack is also great.
½ May 25, 2007
This "midnight flick" tells of the journey of a good man into a corrupt world searching for purpose and identity. The film is one of the first to have an honest portrayal of life in Jamaica. The music is great + it tells the story on its own.
February 26, 2007
The Harder They Come is a 1972 Jamaican crime film directed by Perry Henzell. It stars reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, who plays Ivanhoe Martin, a character based on Rhygin, a real life Jamaican criminal who achieved fame in the 1940s.
December 6, 2006
Talk about a classic Reggae movie this is definitely in that category..The story line is good, the setting is wonderful and of course the music is top rated Reggae....
October 8, 2014
I watched this flick with a friend who made a request for this film. If you can understand the strong Jamaican accents, by all means, watch it. I needed the closed captions. But even with the closed captions, the arrangement of the flavortext was difficult to understand, and most of this film is conversation. The cast is unique, and act with passion on queue.
December 19, 2013
A very unique film which includes an entertaining soundtrack that introduced Reggae around the world.
July 28, 2009
Gear. Great Soundtrack also.
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