2006, Movie, R, 95 mins


"Shottas" is Jamaican patois for "gangsta," or more precisely, "shot-caller," and it's the perfect title for first-time director Cess Silvera's scrappy, reggae-fueled crime movie. There's a regularly scheduled shootout every 10 minutes or so, and the dialogue is in thickly accented Jamaican patois (don't worry, it's all subtitled), which lends authenticity when the plot doesn't. Kingston, Jamaica, 1978: Young Errol "Biggs" Williams (J.R. Silvera) and his best friend, Wayne (Carlton Grant Jr.), play at killing cops and dream of one day becoming flush gangsters like local slum thug Sando (Patrick Sando). Their dream starts becoming a reality when they rob a poor beverage vendor at gunpoint and escape to Miami. Twenty years later, Biggs (Ky-Mani Marley, son of legendary reggae superstar Bob Marley) is back in Kingston. Like Wayne, who was shipped back to Jamaica four years earlier, Biggs is one of the many "deportee boys" who, after making millions in Miami's illegal drug trade, is arrested, imprisoned and eventually sent back to Jamaica to commit crimes in his own country. Wayne assures him there's plenty of money to be made lootin'-and-a-shootin' right here Jamaica, but compared to Miami, Kingston is the bush leagues: Biggs wants to win back everything he's lost and more. After taking vengeance on a corrupt MP (Munair Zacca) who tries to have them killed, Biggs and Wayne once again escape to Florida, this time with their psycho sidekick Mad Max (Paul Campbell) along for the ride. Biggs is determined to retake his drug-lord throne from Teddy Bruk Shut (Louie Rankin), the usurper who's been running the show since his boss' deportation. Biggs is supposed to be some sort of Robin Hood figure, but nothing he actually does bears that out, and Silvera's attempt to inject a little social commentary into the mayhem (in one scene, a headline reading "Who's to Blame?" figures prominently on the wall) is halfhearted at best. It's all pretty rough going, but even with its microbudget there's enough blood, booty and bling to satisfy fans of the genre. It's also never dull, thanks to Silvera's restless pacing and a great reggae soundtrack. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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