Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Third World Cop

By Marjorie Baumgarten

JULY 17, 2000: 

D: Chris Browne; with Paul Campbell, Mark Danvers, Winston "Bello" Bell, Audrey Reid, Carl Bradshaw, Lenford Salmon, Desmond Ballentine. (R, 98 min.)

In all likelihood, few of us would be able to name any Jamaican movie other than Perry Henzell and Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come. And that movie dates back to 1972. Some might be able to cite 1996's Dancehall Queen, which was the highest-grossing Jamaican film of all time and a hit on the international festival circuit. The point is that home-grown Jamaican movies are few and far between. Now we have Third World Cop, which was made by many of the same members of the production team who made Dancehall Queen and has supplanted it as the country's top-grossing indigenous film. Unfortunately, however, this does not make it a good film, although as a cultural artifact Third World Cop is endlessly fascinating. Starring Paul Campbell (who played the villain in Dancehall Queen and is also Henzell's nephew), the film is a hackneyed police story, rife with clichés, implausibilities, and weak performances, although it comes to creative life during the filming of the action sequences. Campbell plays a cop nicknamed Capone, who joined the force following the death of his childhood pal. Now he finds that the pal's younger brother Ratty (Danvers) is involved in a gunrunning racket and Capone is torn by his allegiance to uphold the law and his attachment to his nominal kin. The movie is also populated with stock characters: the comical sidekick (Bell), the dirty cop (Salmon), and the twisted mob boss (Bradshaw). The film's dialogue is packed with generic clichés (although at least half of it is subtitled in English to help foreigners decipher some of the gangland patois), and everyone glares as if they were in a Dirty Harry movie. Adding to the unreality of Third World Cop is its look: Having been shot on digital video and transferred to film, the picture often has a flattened fisheye appearance and sets that seem too pristinely hollow and empty. The film was produced by Chris Blackwell (of Island Records fame) and his new company Palm Pictures. Clearly, the idea is to market the hell out of the reggae soundtrack, which features original music by Sly & Robbie, and cuts by many other local artists. The soundtrack album has received generally good reviews, but the fact that Third World Cop is opening in Austin with an exclusive midnight run adds further credence to the idea that the movie's primary purpose is to support the soundtrack. Nevertheless, the reggae crowd and anyone interested in viewing a rare cultural artifact is gonna wanna stay up late and taste this Jamaican home-grown.

1.5 Stars

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