The Harder They Come (1972)

Admission of hypocrisy time. Coming from a Scottish background, few things shit me more than subtitles being applied to films like Trainspotting (usually for the benefit of Americans). They’re not speaking a foreign language, they’re speaking bloody English, just with an accent. You’d understand them if you could be bothered listening. Having said which, I must admit my own gratitude for the subtitles on this film, parts of which would’ve been indecipherable without it (mind you, a few of the subs suggest that whoever made them occasionally had similar problems breaking through the Jamaican patois). I’m not exactly consistent with these things, am I. Whatever. The first Jamaican feature film almost always seems to be talked about in terms of its famous soundtrack, which played a major role in bringing reggae to an international audience and is, I think, rightly acclaimed (which I say as someone who’s not actually into reggae, though I used to be partial to a bit of dub). That makes sense, cos it’s probably done a lot more to sell the film than its story does (based on actual events of the 1940s)… young man from the country moves to the big smoke—does Kingston actually constitute much of a “big” city?—tries to make it big in the music business but finds himself shut out by that particular criminal operation and moves into bigger-scale criminality instead. I just wish I’d felt a bit more engaged by the film, the pacing struck me as kind of off, and as far as the DVD itself goes, well, buggered if I can understand why you’d go to the expense of an HD restoration and then not give the film an anamorphic transfer to disc… Still, the soundtrack is still remarkable and on the whole it’s not actually bad or anything, just not quite as good as I was hoping. Anyway, I only paid $12 for it, so not exactly a big loss…

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