The Harder They Come
Dir: Perry Henzell
Perry Henzell's infamous gangster film that put Jamaica on the cinematic map represents a lot of would-be 'firsts' and should be both celebrated and congratulated accordingly. However, it's really not all that great in the scheme of things and I wouldn't say it's dated that well either. I'm a sucker for independent 70s films though and I love a low-budget thriller. I would categorize The Harder They Come somewhere between blaxpoitation and exploitation even though it's neither. It does feel like it though and if it had a sensationalist title it would be. It's probably more the fact that it was a popular 'Midnight Movie' and that it featured the infamous Spaghetti Western Django that it gets categorized the way it does, but its gangster themes also help. It is most memorable however for being able to boast itself as being the film that brought Reggie music to a western audience, although this isn't quite true or accurate. Reggie was doing very well in England in the late 50s and early 60s but it hadn't quite taken off in America just yet. The thick Jamaican patois (Jamaican Creole) made it the first English spoken film to have needed subtitles but it didn't put people off. It was the first big film whereby black people could see themselves on the big screen, which caused a huge reaction, not only in the Caribbean. The story is a familiar tale as far as gangster films go but the added musical theme was something a little different. Jimmy Cliff's popularity grew overnight thanks to his performance and his hit song 'The Harder They Come' and the soundtrack was huge around the world. I'll be honest, I hate Reggie but I've got a soft spot for the title song. The theme of the film is now overdone and I've always thought that this was a poor representation of young black males but as a realistic feeling crime film goes it feels authentic. Maybe it's because it is based on the real life story of Rhyging, the infamous criminal outlaw who became something of a folk hero in the 1940s and is credited as being the original 'rudeboy', Jamaica's one-man Bonnie and Clyde if you will. It's rough round the edges, a bit dated and not very well acted but it is hugely important in the history of film and it's influence on modern day cinema (starting in the early 70s) is massive.