[Originally published in slightly different form in Movietone News 60-61, February 1979]
Perry Henzellâ€™s Jamaican film The Harder They Come invites comparison with Marcel Camusâ€™s Black Orpheus in its stylistic reliance upon pulsating rhythms to carry it along with a sense of inevitability, and in its literary use of the music and lifestyle of New World blacks as the milieu for a story of mythic heroism. But The Harder They Come, though never as self-consciously poetic as the Camus film, is much more fatalisticâ€”as close to naturalism as such a stylized film can come. Black Orpheus increasingly restricts its meaning to the restaged Attic resurrection myth, while The Harder They Come consistently delimits its range of meaning to become not just a rehearsal of a mythic pattern but also a story of music, of crime and pursuit, of the uses and abuses of religion, and most importantly, of political impact. This may sound like a grab-bag of stylistic and thematic implication; but The Harder They Come is no pasticheâ€”itâ€™s a true Third World film in which every element relates to its central concern for the futile struggle of a people doomed to exploitation, whether in politics, crime, or business.