Not anamorphic! Save your money!
Art | 09/23/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was extremely disappointed, on buying this DVD, to discover that the new, restored version is not an anamorphic transfer. It blows my mind that in this day and age, a historic film like this would be restored, remastered and released without using the best possible format.
More's the pity, as it appears that the actual transfer is an improvement over the earlier Criterion version. Nonetheless, this is an expensive "Deluxe" release, and those with widescreen TVs will undoubtedly want to wait until there is an anamorphic version (I should note that if you watch this on a widescreen TV, and zoom in so the picture fills the screen, you will not be able to read all the subtitles!). Those without fancy home-theater equipment are probably better off looking for a used copy of one of the previous releases.
It's truly sad that so much work was apparently put into the restoration of the actual film, and then a second-rate DVD was produced from it. I honestly can't recommend this DVD for anyone, especially given the list price, and would recommend that people wait for (and demand) a definitive anamorphic release of this all-time classic."
chuck | Seattle, WA USA | 11/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Harder They Come is raw power. Filmed in Kingston, Jamaica, the film stars Jimmy Cliff as Ivan, a country-boy who comes to the big city to make a better life for himself. Ivan wants his life desperately to matter for something; he wants to be somebody. This movie is about that journey---a journey to be somebody; to matter. Ivan's dream is to be a singer and to make records, but he soon finds himself a pawn in the ganja (marijuana) trade. In his journey, Ivan bears witness to the record industry, the church, the police, and the drug traders. And within them all he sees institutional corruption and oppression of the poor. Ultimately, Ivan becomes an outlaw hero with gun in hand. The movie infuses drama and music to great effect. Reggae, of course, is the music of The Harder They Come. In addition to Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytalls are featured as musicians within the movie. "The Harder They Come" is not only the name of the movie, but it is also the name of hero Ivan's hit record within the movie. The making of that record (when Ivan dons the gold-star shirt) is one of my favorite music-in-movie scenes. It is just plain real; Real music, real vibe...and real darn good.The DVD features a commentary by the director Perry Henzell and star Jimmy Cliff. They are recorded separately and offer up some fascinating details about not only the film, but life in Jamaica in general. They also touch on The Harder They Come's impact on Jamaica's being a cultural and artistic force in the world today. The director's struggle to keep the production as unprofessional (and hence, "real") is both admirable and nearly comical. He actually winces at the performance of one of the few professional actor's in the production (Lucia White, who plays Ivan's mother). The DVD also features an interview with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. The ten-minute-or-so interview mainly touches on the film's importance in sharing with the world Jamaica as a cultural exporter. The picture quality is very good but shows considerable grain in some spots. The grain works for this movie. The picture, unfortunately, is not anamorphic. The sound is mono and at times betrays the movies' indie-film roots. That all said, this DVD is vastly superior to all previous releases. One small quibble: The one subtitle track is for the deaf and hearing impaired. While the native language of Jamaica is English, the English spoken in the film is very difficult to understand to my American ears. Watching this movie without the subtitles on is not an option (at least on first viewing). However, the descriptive elements for the hearing-impaired subtitles (such as "FIRE CRACKLING" or "TIRES SCREECHING") are distracting for those simply seeking subtitled English. Two subtitle track would have been appreciated.While it is obvious that I love The Harder They Come, it is not a perfect movie. For instance, more could have been done to establish Ivan as a musician early on. By the time the movie moves Ivan into the studio to record his record, his music is so fully realized and mature that I can't help but think that it is less Ivan in the studio than Jimmy Cliff himself. The second half of the movie takes on a wee-bit too much and the (thankfully short) chases aren't very effective. However, I cannot stress enough my love of this movie. It is flawed, but perfectly so. The Harder They Come, along with the Leone/Eastwood "Man With No Name" trilogy, ranks at the very top of outlaw hero movies."
Cross This River
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 05/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1973's The Harder They Come is something of the Jamaican version of Bonnie & Clyde or Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, but with a singular lead character instead of duo. Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff stars as Ivan Martin, who at the start of the film arrives in Kingston from the country with dreams of stardom as a singer. After struggling to find work, he is taken in by a preacher (Basil Keane) and falls in love with the preacher's ward, Elsa (Janet Barkley). After using the church to practice his song, the preacher kicks both Ivan and Elsa out of the house. Ivan eventually gets a chance to record his song, the movie's title track, but the producer, Hilton, does not offer him riches, only $20.00. Ivan decides not to sign the contract releasing the song to Hilton and tries to sell the record himself. What he finds out is that Hilton controls not only the recording studio, but the radio stations, record stores and club DJ's as well. Ivan goes back to Hilton and accepts the $20.00. With basically no money to support Elsa and himself, he is taken in by Jose (Carl Bradshaw) who is the local ganja dealer. Jose teams Ivan up with Pedro (Ras Daniel Hartman) to push drugs. The drug trafficking is like everything else that Ivan runs across in Kingston, rife with corruption, being run by the local police. Ivan doesn't like the pay out he is getting from Jose, feeling he is doing all the work and getting none of the reward. Jose thinks Ivan has become nothing but trouble, so he tells the cops to arrest him. When Ivan is being pulled over by a cop, he shoots and kills him instead of surrendering. He gets caught in another showdown with the police, killing several more cops. Hilton decides to release Ivan's single and it becomes a smash hit, making Ivan a folk hero (much the same as Bonnie & Clyde and Butch & Sundance). Ivan enjoys his hero status and plays it to the hilt until a final showdown with the military on a beach. Director Perry Hanzell uses the Kingston landscape with its alternating tropical beauty and urban slums as a perfect juxtaposition between the paradise people believe Jamaica to be and the harsh reality of its cities. The camerawork is gritty and the acting is rough, but authentic. In fact the Jamaican accents are so thick in places, that subtitles are employed. Mr. Cliff, in his acting debut, gives a convincing and credible performance, but it is the reggae music that is the star of the film. The movie helped introduce reggae to an American audience and the songs like the title track, "You Can Get It If You Really Want It", "Johnny Too Bad" and especially the angelic "Many Rivers To Cross" (covered by artists like Cher, Joe Cocker, UB40, Harry Nilsson and most notably Linda Ronstadt) have become reggae classics."
The Heroes That Poverty Produces
Dana Garrett | 08/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Harder They Come" is an apt portrayal of the limited realistic aspirations available to the poor in contemporary Jamaica.
Ivan, the main character, moves from the "country" to Kingston chasing the dream of becoming a reggae star. In Ivan's case the dream is not unrealistic. He has considerable talent. Although he cuts a record destined to become a hit, the producer buys it from him for a mere $20.00, knowing that Ivan will only get similar exploitive offers from other producers on the island.
Ivan then turns to the only viable lucrative trade for the poor in Jamaica: running ganja. Although this increases his financial status considerably by relative standards, Ivan soon learns that the lion share of the profit taking goes to the Americans who distribute the ganja in the USA. Ivan wants Jamaicans to start taking a bigger cut. This, of course, gets him into trouble with the ganja syndicate who try to have him arrested and later murdered by the police who are in cahoots with the ganja syndicate.
Ivan then goes on a rampage, targeting members of the syndicate who permit the massive capital flight of the ganja trade to go to foreign interests. At this point, the movie becomes a metaphor for how the Jamaican government permits the massive capital flight by the exploitation of its domestic resources by foreign investors either through direct profit taking or by satisfying the extreme indebtedness the Jamaican government has to foreign banks (approximately 80% of Jamaica's budget goes to servicing its debt).
In a society where personal success is most likely achieved through drug dealing, anyone who stands up to the forces that permit most of the profit taking to occur outside of Jamaica is seen as hero in Jamaican society. The outlaw becomes a rebel hero in a society beset by poverty and official corruption, and the powers that be, official and criminal, cooperate to stop the rebel because he becomes an example of noncompliance to the people."