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The Harder They Come (1972)

Cast: Basil Keane, Basil Keane, Janet Barkley, more...
Director: Perry Henzell, Perry Henzell
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Xenon Pictures
Genre: Cult, Crime
Running Time: 103 min.
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Reggae star Jimmy Cliff is the principal reason that The Harder They Come was one of the first truly successful films to come out of Jamaica. Cliff plays Ivan, a young would-be singer who finds the going rough when he hits the big city of Kingston. Jailed for participating in a knife fight, Ivan is exploited by a dishonest record-company executive upon his release. Turning his back on the establishment, Ivan becomes involved in the marijuana trade. He keeps the police at arm's length by offering them a slice of the action, but ultimately finds himself in the middle of a bloody raid. Ivan kills several cops and escapes, whereupon the duplicitous record exec releases Ivan's single "The Harder They Come," elevating the fugitive to the status of folk hero. The Harder They Come utilizes a take-no-prisoners approach to its material and presents an unadorned view of the seamier side of Jamaica life. The film resulted in an incredible upsurge in the popularity of reggae music in America; among the highlights in its hit-after-hit score are "You Can Really Get It If You Want It," "Sitting in Limbo," "Johnny Too Bad," and the title song. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide


  • Interviews with Perry Henzell, Arthur Gorson, and star Jimmy Cliff
  • Featurettes: One and All: The Phenomenon of "The Harder They Come" and Hard Road to Travel: The Making of "The Harder They Come"
  • Slide Show: The Wild Side of Paradise
  • Music Video
  • Exclusive Preview of Perry Henzell's There's No Place Like Home

GreenCine Member Reviews

Uphill Watching by danleary25 March 16, 2004 - 11:49 PM PST
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
The Harder They Come is an entirely unparalleled film. There simply aren't any other movies that chronicle this same time and place(or at least no other such film is readily available). Set in the third-world Jamaica of the 1970s The Harder They Come is valuable for giving an angle into the corrupt and infantile record industry of Jamaica. The general story of a simple person who's humble dreams push him into a dark life is made more interesting by having something unique to say about poverty and class-conflicts of this time frame.

The filmmaking quality is standard of 1970s independent film. Early on I sensed the qualitites of a blaxploitation film, and I think such comparisons are unavoidable. Certainly themes of antiestablishment and little inhibition to violence and sex lend themselves to both this film and blaxploitation, but this film is set apart from such American ones solely because the driving force is not race but class, poor blacks versus rich blacks.

It is however a flawed film, gaps in the plot begin to carry us to the otherwise stunning climax. And most difficult to deal with is the dialog, although filmed in English it's almost impossible at times to understand the thick Jamaican dialect and coarse speaking patterns. At times this movie can become difficult, uphill watching. Eventually I had to leave the subtitles on just to get through it. Ultimately the film should appeal to people interested in unique world cinema, anyone into reggae music and music in general and for its unusual social content.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.23)
84 Votes
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