A Scarface-copycat with an exotic Jamaican flavor Shottas (2002) follows the story of two childhood friends as they slowly embrace a culture of violence and excess. Set amidst the poverty ridden streets of Kingston and flashy Miami the picture mixes catchy tunes with sleek camera work only to eventually tell its viewers what they already know: Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it (Henry Buckle).
Biggs (Bob Marley's son Ky-Mani Marley) and Wayne (Spragga Benz) are forced to return to Jamaica after they have made a fortune in Miami. Back in Kingston the duo becomes involved with a local politician who quickly turns against them. The shottas (Jamaican slang for gangsters) discover that their names are on a hit-list and eventually demand from the politician that he supplies them with US visas. In no time they settle in Miami where the drug market is already zoned. Biggs, Wayne, and their buddy Mad Max (Paul Campbell) decide to shake things up a bit.
Following a well established path of glorifying violence while simultaneously pretending to be a socially relevant picture with a serious message teenagers would fall for Shottas is a mindless mish-mash of gangsta clichés. Fast money, drugs, sleazy clubs, and an endless cohort of scantly clad women transform this Wyclef Jean-produced film into ninety minutes of Jamaican style bling-bling headache you want to skip.
First time writer-director Cess Silvera's ganja saga might have looked good on paper but materialized through his camera ranks amongst some of the most amateurish films to be released this year. Too much glitter, too much profanity, too much machoism are jammed into a plot with more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. Put aside a few of the glitzy shots from Kingston and the only thing Shottas got going is its mostly tolerable soundtrack.
Listening to music snippets however isn't enough to mask the lousy job Cess Silvera and Co. have done. From the amateurish acting (Ky-Mani Marley better look elsewhere as acting clearly isn't his forte) to the sloppy lines to the ridiculous action scenes Shottas is an impressive waste of film celluloid which resuscitated memories of an annoying Get Rich Or Die Trying experience I am still trying to erase.
Finally, the bold reference on the back cover of this DVD implying that Shottas comes in the tradition of The Harder They Come (1972) is as deceiving of a marketing move as I have ever seen printed by a major studio. This picture is so far off Perry Henzel's notorious work that frankly I think it is flat out insulting to draw any parallels between the two whatsoever. Mediocrity is better left alone!!
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the film looks good but not solid. While colors appear well handled and contrast is satisfactory edge-enhancement is of major concern for this release. Furthermore, aliasing might bother those with more sensitive eyes as particularly during the second half of the film its presence become quiet annoying. Aside from that owners of the largely discussed bootleg-edition of this film will be happy to know that the print distributed by SONY is entirely damage-free.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with an English 5.1 track the audio mix is very convincing. Music is well separated from dialog and I did not detect any disturbing hissing of dropouts. This being said I found it extremely difficult to follow the actors' speech due to the thick Jamaican accents. The inclusion of English (and French) optional subtitles was of paramount importance and thankfully SONY have done an excellent job providing such.
There is an entire second disc of extras provided for this film. The actual film on disc one could be viewed with an optional introduction by Ky-Mani Marley and Cess Silvera letting us know that "this is the director's rough cut of the film" and that " we should drop all previous DVD's and VHS" copies--an apparent attempt to make sure that this "official cut" is the one to own. Next there is a "Shottas dictionary" explaining the Jamaican slang used in the main feature. Aside from that there are two commentaries, one with the director Cess Silvera, and one with the crew to the film and the director.
I spent a fair amount of time listening to both of them and aside from the technical information provided it appears that this was indeed a picture inspired by plenty of real events that one way or another have influenced the lives of those involved in the film. This being said, I found the first commentary slightly more engaging, perhaps due to the more personal character of the information provided, than the second one where the rest of the crew chimes in.
On disc 2 there is a multi-part documentary titled "Shottas for Life" in which Cess Silvera talks how the film became a reality (apparently the idea came from his brother Fada Screw), the fact that this is one of the most severely bootlegged films ever, and plenty of inside information pertaining to the actual filming process. Next, there is an "In Memoriam" section dedicate to Junior "Yapp" Hoo-Fatt, Roger Forsythe, Donvylle "Sexy" Brown, Nochie Jakes, Ron Reynolds, Johnny Murphy, Scott, D'Silva, Bogle, and Keith "Fada Screw" Deans. Next, "My Borther, My Friend: a Shottas Dedication": Cess Silvera dedicating the film to the most inspirational man in his life.
A lavishly produced disc with plenty of extras appears to have been added to force those owning the bootleg version of Shottas to seriously ponder what is the true DVD version of this film – it should have been obvious from the very beginning. It is also more than obvious however that this film is a total failure with no redeeming values whatsoever. It is strange and at the same time sad to see how a Scarface-vogue, for which MTV and the rest of the hip networks are responsible for, can inspire such kitsch. It is shocking to see that a major studio bought into it.