Monday, April 11, 2011

Projection Booth: The Harder They Come remake (Updated at the bottom)

Reports coming out of Variety is that the seminal 1972 Jamaican gangster film is going to be remade, apparently 40 years after the original release.
If you are not familiar with this classic film you are seriously deprived. Admittedly I have to watch it with subtitles due to the heavy (and I mean heavy) Jamaican accents in the film. It was based on the story of a 1940's era criminal known as Rhyging which was changed to Ivanhoe Martin famously played by reggae music sensation Jimmy Cliff. 
Roger Corman's New World Pictures released it in 1973 without much interest but over the years it has become a major touchstone in the gangster/crime genre as well as one of the first movies to come out of Jamaica and was written and directed by Perry Henzell, who planned on making Cliff a large movie star had this movie taken off when it was released. 

The story is basically a smalltown boy coming to the big city to find a job and gets into dealing Marijuana, as well as finds himself cutting a huge single song (same name as the title of the movie) but to get it released he has to sign the rights away to the big time producer to a nominal fee. Along the way he runs afoul of the local preacher for falling for his daughter.


Ivanhoe meets a violent end thanks to the local police that are highly overzealous with their trigger fingers. Its abrupt and sad end to boy with big dreams. 
It does a pretty great job of showing what life is really like on the island unlike the happy pot smoking Jamaicans and beautiful beaches that resorts that bank on for tourists to visit, which is far from the shanty towns that most people actually live in. 
We haven't even touched on the absolutely AMAZING and deep soundtrack that accompanies the film. Comprised of a couple tracks by Jimmy Cliff as well as Toots and the Maytals, Desmond Decker and the sublime "Johnny Too Bad" by The Slickers( which has been covered by Sublime but much better version done by Steve Earle)
This album is a true sample of Reggae music that you probably won't hear blaring out of frat house on a spring Saturday afternoon. 

From the reports it seems they are going to update it with today's music which means Reggaeton most likely. That would set the tone as more of a typical "gangsta" movie whereas the original is a "gangster" film more in line with "White Heat" or "Menace II Society" than "Scarface" or "New Jack City".
The company that released "Snatch" and "Moon": Xingu Films which I've been made aware is run by the singer Sting's wife. That would give me hope since both those movies are interesting to watch respectively but hearing that the producer is saying it is a re-imagining of the story with reggae inspired music makes my interest shrivel. They story is fine the way it is, don't re-imagine anything because
honestly, they should just take the original basis from the first film and use that as inspiration for a new film instead of using the "Harder They Come" name.
Hopefully it will make people curious about the original but more than likely as soooooooo many remakes do, they muddy the legacy of the film they are taking from. I hope against hope that Jimmy Cliff doesn't sign off on his music being used in it.
Mr. Cliff deserves some major mainstream recognition but I would hate to see it from a remake of a movie he make much better 40 years prior.
They haven't announced when filming will commence but I am keeping my fingers crossed that this idea dies in pre-production. Much like I am hoping the same about the rumored "Warriors" re-imagining.
For fucks sake people, leave the classics alone. Use your damn imagination and come up with an original story. Its more fun to watch that way.

Just thought of this:
Now you wanna see a great idea... I say screw this abomination of a remake and instead take the script and tweak it so it can be the same idea of a small town boy hitting the big city and getting into dealing while also finding an outlet in music but instead of Jamaica set it in Minneapolis and get members of Doomtree as partial cast. P.O.S. in the Jimmy Cliff role, add in Dessa, Sims, Mike Mictlan throw some cameos from Atmosphere, Brother Ali, hell Har Mar Superstar can play the big time producer than buys the song rights cheap from P.O.S. making him a star while turning him to hustle to make some cash since he gets screwed over.  Now that would be a great retelling of the original story without destroying it. Call it "The Harder They Come: Murderapolis" Get some great Rhymesayes crew music in there. It could do for  the MPLS music scene what the original movie did for Jamaica. Someone should absolutely do this.
Could be a winner, winner, chicken dinner.


  1. Walking down the road with a ratchet in my waist...Danny Too Bad. They could remake it as a political thriller where Paul Ryan goes to the slums of Georgetown (Trenchtown), runs afoul of the corrupt local establishment and ends up dead. It would be the feel good movie of the summer.