Jamaican Passions in a Time of Tumult: NYT reviews ‘Better Mus’
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Come’NICOLAS RAPOLD reviews Storm Saulter’s Beter Mus’ Come for The New York Times. Jamaica’s cinematic output is still most famous for the reggae classic “The Harder They Come,” from Perry Henzell in 1972. Set in the same decade, when Kingston exploded in politically fueled gang warfare, Storm Saulter’s “Better Mus’ Come” attempts a righteous plunge into this treacherous period with cut-rate pulp style and turf melodrama. But despite its cultural detail and fetching leads this Jamaican director’s colorful debut feature is undone by ragged scene construction, weak acting and a scattered script. Fresh out of jail, a poetic single dad, Ricky (Sheldon Shepherd), becomes drawn into partisan fighting involving the ruling People’s National Party and the Jamaica Labor Party. His rapid romance with Kemala (Nicole Grey) becomes just one more thing threatened by the violent tit for tat. Not even a Rastafarian spiritual ceremony can overcome the stubbornly pervasive ill will, which culminates in a scene inspired by the Green Bay Massacre of 1978, in which soldiers killed several suspected gang members. Shot on location, rarely far from corrugated-metal walls and getaway alleys, this subtitled film is proudly rooted in its homegrown dramas. Mr. Saulter pulls off some nifty visual shorthand, as in the opening scene’s prelude to an attack on an election rally, and he doesn’t soft-pedal the blood, sweat or tears of these feuds. The choice of material becomes a casualty of filmmaking that could have been tighter and cleaner.