It's tempting to compare the Jamaican crime drama "Shottas" to the 1972 Jimmy Cliff classic, "The Harder They Come," especially considering the music stars in it (including Bob Marley's son, Kymani, and Wyclef Jean). But the film that "Shottas" ends up resembling — too closely — is Brian De Palma's "Scarface." "Ska-Face," perhaps?
Writer-director-producer Cess Silvera's debut starts promisingly, with a "City of God"-like interlude in 1978 Kingston. Two engaging young actors, J.R. Silvera and Carlton Grant Jr., portray Biggs and Wayne, best friends on mean streets where kids play cops and robbers with killers as heroes and snitches as villains.
Flash-forward 20 years, and the friends are now impersonated by the less-engaging Kymani Marley and Spragga Benz. They bounce from Jamaica to America to Jamaica and back, leaving a Peckinpah-like trail of blood. Biggs and Wayne (and loyal serial-killer friend Mad Max) wind up in Miami, shaking down big-time drug dealers. Yup. Three buddies, shaking down big-time drug dealers.
There's no social commentary discernible here; merely a rap-video style glorification of the gangsta life, complete with mad money, barely clad babes and that annoying affectation of holding pistols sideways. As to its treatment of women, well, it's not exactly a feminist film.
All that said, "Shottas" (which means "gangstas" or "shot-callers," according to the press notes) could reach an appreciative audience among those looking for the next cult ultra-violent crime flick in the blaxploitation mold, albeit a subtitled one in Jamaican dialect.
MPAA rating: R for strong violence, sexuality/nudity, language and drug content.
A Destination Films/Triumph Films release. Writer-director-producer Cess Silvera. Producers Jennifer Farrell, Fabien Pruvot. Director of photography Cliff Charles. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
Exclusively at Mann Beverly Center Cinemas, Beverly Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard (310) 652-7660.