The Harder They Come (1972) 1h 43m / R / Crime Musical
Finally, a movie that answers the time-worn question: who do I have to kill to get my song played on the radio? The Harder They Come is the story of Ivanhoe Martin (played by legendary reggae genius Jimmy Cliff), struggling musician. Ivanhoe arrives in Kingston, Jamaica, looking for work and, after some initial struggles, lands a recording contract as a reggae singer. He records his first song, “The Harder They Come,” but after a bitter dispute with a manipulative producer named Hilton, soon finds himself resorting to petty crime to pay the bills. He deals marijuana, kills some abusive cops and earns local folk hero status. Meanwhile, his record is topping the charts.
A reggae-soaked crime musical, The Harder They Come is famously one of those movies that’s more totalized experience than discrete film product. The vibe is untouchable, the looks are iconic, there’s a pretty solid reading of this movie as a neorealist satire of the failures of post-colonial capitalism, and the plot absolutely could not matter less. But that soundtrack though. The 1972 soundtrack album of the film was a success around the world and exposed an international audience to reggae, in many cases for the first time. Jimmy Cliff even performed on the first season of SNL in 1975! So get your mind right, put away all Babylon ting, and mosey on up to Tampa Theatre for an original Jamaican classic and an all-time late-night jam, The Harder They Come.