The Harder They Come (1973)
d. Perry Henzell
Criterion Collection #83
The Harder They Come is one of those works of art where the concept/identity of the work is better then the reality of the work itself. You get that situation a lot when a mediocre movie has a kick-ass sound track, or kick-ass cinematography or whatever. People associate the film with the best part of the film, even though the film as an over-all work isn't particularly note worthy.
Reggae star Jimmy Cliff plays Ivan, a country boy who moves to the city to find work, has trouble finding work, cuts a reggae hit, then gets mixed up with a drug gang during a period of the film where I literally couldn't understand what was going on, then gets killed at the end and becomes a Robin Hood style folk hero.
Most of the movie is set in the pungent slums of Kingston Jamaica, and this gives The Harder They Come an almost documentary feel. There is one scene before Ivan really gets going where he is kind of hanging around a dump and there is this long tracking shot where you see scavengers and children playing in the garbage and it's particularly moving.
Not until the final shoot out practically does the film leave the city for the country, and by then the country feels like a one-off location shot. Production values are low all around, and the actors are either non-actors or (certainly) local actors- although putatively in English you need to strain to hear the actual lines in the film. I'm not even talking about the accents, I'm talking about the sound quality of the recording.