The Harder They Come Reviews
-Peary finds Cliff "too sexual for most whites to feel comfortable with". Reminds me that he also hit an odd note harping on Bruce Lee as 'sexual.'
-talks about the apolitical black American audience. The movie's distribution aimed it at them, and they failed to be interested in this movie.
-subheadings about Ivan's contact with "the island's major cultural influences" - Christianity, the record business, the ganja trade, the Rastafarians, the police/government, and outlaw mythology - and gives some great contextual information.
Speaking for myself, it was a bit hard to sit through, watching late at night. Often because I couldn't make sense of a lot of Ivan's actions: wheeling around a golf course? Sometimes they seemed real enough, but really unfortunate: wheedling to get the keys to the church, where you know he'll get caught. Buying ever flashier clothes despite being skint. Shooting Jose's girl. But Peary totally nails it: he's not an easy protagonist to get on board with, and maybe that's especially true if you're white and middle class.
Jamaica. A young man from the country, Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin (played by Jimmy Cliff) heads into the city after his grandmother dies. He tries to get work, with little success, but his dream is to become a music star. He gets a single recorded but, though the song is popular, he doesn't get much out of it - the record company has the upper hand. In desperation he turns to crime.
A reasonably historic film in that this was the first feature film produced in Jamaica. The movie also introduced reggae music to a wider audience.
On that note, the music in the movie is great, and gives the movie a great vibe.
However, the rest of the movie leaves much to be desired. Plot is pretty basic. It started off struggling to find a focus, but then when it does, it is pretty unoriginal, predictable and one-dimensional.
No real character depth. You don't really feel that engaged with the character of Ivan. What little engagement you had goes out the window once he starts shooting people.
Jimmy Cliff is okay in the lead role but the remaining cast are pretty wooden. Some quite cringeworthy acting at times.
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.