At its best, Rockers, a picaresque reggae romp, is an enjoyable wallow in Kingston (Jamaica) slum culture.
The star, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, has an engaging, deadpan charm and the natural, loose-limbed shuffle that it took Mick Jagger years to master.
Most of the main characters are real people, playing themselves, primarily reggae artists and producers.
But as far as exotic adventures go, Rockers is no The Harder They Come (1973). Where Jimmy Cliff turned to violent crime, the more genial and ganja-soaked Horsemouth (who plays a destitute drummer) hits his music-industry oppressors only in their pocketbooks.
Because Horsemouth is such a jolly, Pacific Rastaman, Rockers is said to be truer to reggae than The Harder They Come. But reggae isn’t only Rastafarianism. Bursting with energy, The Harder They Come tried to contain every political, religious and pharmaceutical force that shaped this common man’s music, fuelling a combined gangster and showbiz story with underclass anger.
Rockers just shimmers in a benign marijuana haze.
Only the soundtrack bristles. It’s Peter Tosh, not Horsemouth, who generates raging energy when he sings “I’m like a stepping razor/Don’t you watch my size/I’m dangerous!”
Other music is provided by Bunny Wailer, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, Junior Byles, Scratch and the Upsetters, Justin Hines and the Dominoes, Burning Spear, Third World, The Maytones and Rockers Allstars.
Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace
Richard ‘Dirty Harry’ Hall
Burning Spear (Winston Rodney)
Big Youth (Manley Buchanan)