Reggae star Jimmy Cliff is the principal reason that The Harder They Come was one of the first truly successful films to come out of Jamaica. Cliff plays Ivan, a young would-be singer who finds the going rough when he hits the big city of Kingston. Jailed for participating in a knife fight, Ivan is exploited by a dishonest record-company executive upon his release. Turning his back on the establishment, Ivan becomes involved in the marijuana trade. He keeps the police at arm's length by offering them a slice of the action, but ultimately finds himself in the middle of a bloody raid. Ivan kills several cops and escapes, whereupon the duplicitous record exec releases Ivan's single "The Harder They Come," elevating the fugitive to the status of folk hero. The Harder They Come utilizes a take-no-prisoners approach to its material and presents an unadorned view of the seamier side of Jamaica life. The film resulted in an incredible upsurge in the popularity of Reggae music in America; among the highlights in its hit-after-hit score are "You Can Really Get It If You Want It," "Sitting in Limbo," "Johnny Too Bad," and the title song.
by Hal Erickson synopsis